Gateway Garbage

Will federal stimulus funds end lawsuits over cleaning L.A. Riverr?

Will stimulus funds end lawsuits over cleaning L.A. River?

Great news from last week.  The Obama administration awarded $10 million in stimulus funds to prevent trash from getting in to the Los Angeles River and San Pedro Bay.  The shocking pictures of Long Beach after a rain often show a few feet of trash piled along the shore.  The L.A. River is so polluted that it ranks on California’s list of impaired waters.  The Regional Water Board even approved river specific water quality standards that require zero trash getting in the river by 2014.  The so-called Total Maximum Daily Load limit is one of the most far reaching environmental regulations in the country.

With the $10 million, the Los Angeles Gateway Region Integrated Regional Water Management Authority (I don’t make up these names) will design and install trash-capture devices to comply with these regulations in the cities of Bell, Bell Gardens, Commerce, Compton, Cudahy, Downey, Huntington Park, Long Beach, Lynwood, Maywood, Montebello, Paramount, Pico Rivera, Signal Hill, South Gate and Vernon.

As required under the trash regulation, the full capture devices are designed to prevent 100% of the trash greater than five millimeters in diameter from reaching the L.A.River after a three-quarter inch storm.  The L.A. Gateway Authority claimed that the stimulus funds will prevent garbage from trashing the river and the bay, and the funds will create over 100 jobs over the next two years.  All great stuff.  Congratulations.

So why don’t I feel all warm and happy inside?

Because  Downey, the lead city that successfully obtained the funds, is the very city that has been the driving force behind  numerous lawsuits against the state and the federal government over water quality protections, including the very same trash TMDL.

The city has been supportive of the local Coalition for Practical Regulation (CPR), which opposes and/or sues over critical environmental regulations, ranging from stormwater permits to TMDLs. 

Look, I am ecstatic that the Gateway cities received a stimulus grant at a time when local government has been unfairly hammered by California’s epic budget crisis.  Environmental protection is not a luxury that we can only afford during the best of times.  However, I sure hope that the folks in the Obama administration that handed out the millions are talking to the EPA about the funding.

Talk about biting the hand that feeds you. It doesn’t make much sense for the Feds to give millions to cities to comply with an environmental regulation while they are suing the EPA and the state over the same regulations.  If  the recipient of the funds drops its opposition to everything that the funds pay for, then it’s a different story.

Many of the Gateway cities, most notably Long Beach, are not part of CPR and have not opposed water quality regulations.  I hope that Downey, Signal Hill and the rest of the cities in CPR look at the stimulus funds as an investment in green jobs and a healthy watershed and bay. Maybe the funds will mark a positive change in municipal environmental attitude that has slowed regional water quality improvement to a crawl for over a decade.

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