Stormwater Crossroads

After 20 years, the City of Los Angeles’ stormwater program is at a crossroads.

The program has come a long way since its beginnings in the early nineties as a result of the Hyperion consent decree and new regulations under the federal Clean Water Act and the first countywide stormwater permit. The City has done a superb job on stormwater education for students, businesses and the public. During the early 1990s, Heal the Bay worked closely with the City on our Gutter Patrol program where volunteers helped stencil tens of thousands of catch basins all over the city. Today, the City runs the program and you can’t find a catch basin in the city without a “No Dumping” stencil.

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Memo to Antonio … continued

It's time to treat L.A.'s rivers as habitat rather than flood control channels. Photo: lacreekfreak.org

Yesterday,  I outlined  my top three green initiatives that Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa should tackle in the remainder of his second term. Here’s a look at some other environmental issues that he should make a priority:

Fast-track city approval of a Stream Protection Ordinance in 2010. The Department of Public Works has spent three and a half years working on a stream protection ordinance.  Based on Watershed Protection Division analysis, there are approximately 462 miles of riparian habitat that would receive some level of protection under the draft ordinance.  Council districts 11 (Rosendahl), 2 (Krekorian), and 12 (Smith) all have over 60 miles of habitat, while 11 out of 15 districts have at least 12 miles of habitat.  The ordinance would protect the city’s remaining stream habitat by requiring development buffer zones of 100 feet for soft-bottomed habitat and 30 feet for concrete-lined channels. We need to start treating streams like habitat rather than flood control channels. Unfortunately, the ordinance has been frozen in the mayor’s office for over two years. If the mayor says he wants to protect L.A.’s streams, the ordinance would likely sail through City Council.  Unfortunately, the ordinance is not on the mayor’s radar.

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Stormwater Redux

Clearer minds at L.A. City Hall prevailed Monday on the issue of raising stormwater fees. The city chose to develop a game plan for passing the fee rather than rushing it to the ballot.

Now the city can focus on passing the long-awaited Water Quality Plan, the blueprint for cleaning up local polluted waters. In addition, the city can use the plan to educate the public on the stormwater pollution problems and develop support for the initiative.

The ballot should be sent to property owners only when the public understands the problems and solutions, and when there is strong city leadership on a well- crafted campaign.  A new poll to determine the level of public support for an increase is needed ASAP.

The city should use the next two to three months to move forward, not use the recent public outcry about a poorly planned fee-increase as a reason to kill the needed hike.

Again, without additional funds, the chances of the city making our rivers, beaches and bays safe for people and aquatic life is zero.

Serious About Stormwater

Mail-in ballots may determine hike in stormwater fees

Mail-in ballots may determine hike in stormwater fees

I’ve spent three years talking to the L.A  Department of Public Works and Mayor’s Office staff about the glaring need for sustainable funding for the city’s efforts to curb stormwater pollution. After all, the city has long been in violation of the summer beach bacteria regulatory requirements and looming regulatory deadlines exist for winter beach bacteria, nutrients and toxins in Machado Lake and Echo Park Lake and metals in the L.A. River and Ballona Creek.

In addition, there is no operation and maintenance funding for the $500 million in Proposition O stormwater cleanup projects that are currently under design and construction. Yet funding for stormwater programs is already $30 million a year upside down due to tougher stormwater regulations and a pollution abatement charge that hasn’t gone up in 16 years.

The good news is that the Department of Public Works approved a plan to clean up the city’s chronically polluted beaches, rivers and lakes. It also urged the council to increase the stormwater fees. Both of these are long overdue actions.

However, the issue has gotten complicated and controversial in the last few days.

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Environmental Bill of Rights

I consulted with a number of environmental leaders in the community to devise an Environmental Bill of Rights for residents in the City of Los Angeles. Most of the rights are applicable to all local communities and has been sent to a number of elected officials, with the hope that they can serve as a catalyst for a sustainable city plan for Los Angeles. I hope everyone uses the bill of rights as a tool to advocate for a more sustainable community that protects the rights of all people and nature.

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