Thursday, March 3, 2005
Peninsula cities should know better, says the Ocean Conservancy’s Sarah Newkirk.
The waters off Monterey, Pacific Grove, Carmel and the Pebble Beach Co. were dubbed “areas of special biological significance” by the state and put off limits to storm drain water more than 20 years ago.
Yet faced with a cease-and-desist order (CDO) by state water officials, the three cities and the Pebble Beach Co. seem to be flustered and caught off guard.
“They should have seen it coming,” Newkirk says. “The state board has recently gone to a lot of trouble to let them know that enforcement is on the horizon.”
On May 13, the Central Coast Water Quality Control Board is slated to order Monterey, Pacific Grove, Carmel and the Pebble Beach Co. to stop letting stormwater flow into the Bay.
In a letter to the regional water board, Pacific Grove Mayor Jim Costello says, “We have not had adequate time to respond.”
Monterey City Manager Fred Meurer and other city officials agree with Costello. They say the regional water board’s proposed orders caught them by surprise.
“We only got a hint they were thinking of a CDO in December, 2004,” Meurer says.
Newkirk doesn’t buy the cities’ argument. She’s hoping the state won’t, either.
The Monterey region is the third in California to face a similar state board ultimatum. The state ordered Crystal Cove, a state park near Santa Ana, to stop stormwater runoff in 2001. While Crystal Cove complied with the state’s mandate, in 2004, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC-San Diego received an “exception” and agreed to monitoring.
According to Newkirk, the current cease-and-desist orders facing Peninsula cities are modeled after this 2004 Scripps exception.
“These CDOs are like an exception already,” she says.
If adopted, the state mandate would require the four communities to stop dry weather discharge, put best management practices in place to control wet weather discharge, and provide some monitoring—a fact that irks environmentalists like Newkirk.
“We feel as if the regional board is creating a third path to compliance,” she says.
Still, city officials complain that the complexities of managing and measuring rainwater draining off city land are daunting.
“How are we even supposed to measure something like that?” Meurer asks.
And they say that the cost—which could reach upwards of a few million dollars—is prohibitive.
“The money we spend on this will directly affect libraries, police, recreation and other social programs,” Meurer says. “The money has to come from somewhere.”
Newkirk says some of this money may come from the state.
“We’ve been trying to get money from Prop. 50, the $3.4 billion bond from a few years ago, appropriated for the clean-up of ASBSs [areas of special biological significance],” she says. “We want the cities to know they aren’t going to have to shoulder this massive burden on their own.”
Newkirk says environmental groups are also working on getting cities “another $15 million under Chapter 5 of Prop. 50, in addition to state revolving funds for stormwater, and money under Section 319 of the Clean Water Act.”
But considering the state’s current budget crisis, city officials like Meurer doubt they’ll ever see any of that money.
“Trying to get funds is one thing,” he says, “getting funds is something else. The state is billions of dollars out of balance. Plus, Prop. 50 requires a 25 or 50 percent match.”
But Meurer does admit, “There may be some money that we can compete for.”