Thursday, April 12, 2012
When it comes to protecting Monterey Bay’s postcard-pretty coast, the stormwater that runs off the streets should be regulated as strictly as sewage.
That’s the essence of a March 20 decision by the State Water Resources Control Board, despite lobbying by the affected local jurisdictions – Pebble Beach Company, Monterey County and the cities of Carmel-by-the-Sea, Pacific Grove and Monterey – urging the state to back off.
The California Ocean Plan prohibits the discharge of any waste into so-called Areas of Special Biological Significance, waters designated by the state as particularly valuable. The new rule classifies stormwater as waste, which means the dozens of outfalls gushing into the Pacific Grove, Carmel Bay, Point Lobos and Julia Pfeiffer Burns ASBS could become illegal.
Carmel Planning and Building Services Manager Sean Conroy estimates his city’s annual tab at $125,000 for monitoring alone, unless the affected jurisdictions pool together. State officials have suggested grants and low-interest loans may be able to soften the blow.
State Water Board officials are working with the cities to revise the ASBS monitoring requirements, according to Judie Panneton, a research analyst with the agency. A proposed revision is expected by late May.
Water treatment, however, is the bigger worry. Sarah Hardgrave, P.G.’s environmental programs manager, says P.G. could be on the hook for $8 million in capital expenses if the city is forced to build new infrastructure.
Tom Harty of Monterey County Public Works says he’s struggling to make sense of the water board’s decision. “We’re all in support of improving water quality,” he says. “Unfortunately this one may take a lot of money, to document something that may not need improving.”