Saving Surfrider

Citizens speak out for clean water at Surfrider.

The Surfrider Foundation, Malibu Surfing Assn., Santa Monica Baykeeper and Heal the Bay held a joint press event Thursday morning focused on cleaning up chronically polluted, iconic Surfrider Beach. More than 50 Surfrider locals joined the environmental and surfing groups at the rally, bringing  attention to the two decades of “F” Beach Report Card grades at California’s most famous beach. Everyone echoed the common-sense edict that a day at the beach should never make you sick.

The Battle of the Bu has been going on even before Malibu became a city 18 years ago. The history has been filled with broken promises from Malibu officials about moving forward and recycling wastewater in the Civic Center area instead of relying on septic systems and on-site wastewater treatment systems. One delay after another has occurred. The city most often cites lack of funding as an excuse for making no progress on a water recycling plant. During the decades of inaction, no beach or coastal lagoon has been the site of more studies — ranging from groundwater contamination to fate-and-transport studies to health effects analyses.

Finally, last year, the Regional Water Board passed a resolution prohibiting on-site wastewater treatment at all commercial properties in the Civic Center by 2015 and all residential properties by 2019. The residential ban, in particular, has been strongly opposed by the city and many residents.

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Power Play

Nukes like San Onofre may be exempted from the state's already watered-down policy on once-through cooling.

Good things come to those who wait. Unless you’re a fish.

Last week, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office finally allowed the State Water Board to release a modified once-through-cooling power plant policy. The governor’s office held the policy hostage for months while every major power generator in the state lobbied heavily to weaken the last draft. What a surprise. The power brokers won. They should at least say “Thanks for the fish” like the dolphins in the “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

For those keeping score at home: The State Water Board had already weakened the last version of the policy because of power industry lobbying, but the California Energy Commission, the Public Utility Commission and the California Independent System Operator supported the draft.

The environmental community largely welcomed the draft policy, but still wanted some of the loopholes filled, such as making the preferred compliance method one that does not rely on seawater for cooling power plants and instead requires air cooling.

Meanwhile, despite over two years of a painful public process, a technical advisory committee review and numerous opportunities to comment on the policy, the power industry by and large wanted to maintain the status quo.

Numerous lobbying trips to the governor’s office led to severe erosion of the technically sound policy. What did the power industry get for its troubles? Ka-ching!!  Here goes:

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Fight the Power

Once Through Cooling plants suck the life out of the ocean

Once Through Cooling plants suck the life out of the ocean

I just sat through a seven-hour workshop on the State Water Board’s long-awaited Once Through Cooling power plant policy for California. Arguably, this may be the most important coastal resource protection action in California this year. State Water Board staff put together a draft policy that could finally hold the power industry accountable for decades of non-compliance with the Clean Water Act. In essence, the policy requires OTC plants to comply with Section 316b of the Act and greatly reduce their impacts on fisheries and marine life. These plants use ancient steam generation technologies that literally suck the life out of the ocean. Fish are caught on screens and larvae and eggs get cooked in the plant.

The many speakers who showed up largely stuck to their scripts. The enviro community came out en masse (Keepers, NRDC, Surfrider, Sierra Club, and Heal the Bay) and largely supported most of the draft policy with a strong call for policy simplification and the elimination of giant compliance loopholes. The strength behind the enviro position came from the Second Circuit Federal Court of Appeals on the Riverkeeper I and II cases. Our positions are also supported by the Supreme Court. Continue reading

No Day at the Beach

L.A. County legal strategy puts swimmers at risk

L.A. County legal strategy puts swimmers at risk

This week, the State Water Board heard Los Angeles County’s appeal on the inclusion of enforceable beach water quality standards in the county’s stormwater permit.  The county appealed the permit despite the fact that the L.A. Regional Board modified the permit nearly three years ago and it has been relatively successful in getting a lot of beaches cleaned up of fecal pollution during the summer months.

The county’s dubious arguments stem from its challenge to putting enforceable numeric limits in the permit.  In the case of Santa Monica Bay, the limits are that every beach along the Bay must comply with fecal bacteria water quality standards 100% of the time from April through October.  Some beaches, like Santa Monica Pier, Dockweiler at Ballona Creek, and Malibu Surfrider exceed limits dozens of times each summer.

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Purgatory in Paradise

Welcome_to_Paradise_Cove_Malibu_signLast Friday, the Regional Water Board finally held the long overdue enforcement hearing on the chronic pollution problems at Paradise Cove.  At stake was a $1.6 million fine. The Kissel Co., owner of the mobile home park at the cove, has been violating the Clean Water Act for over 15 years with numerous raw sewage spills and nearly complete disdain for a series of Regional Board compliance assurance actions. In addition, the beach at Paradise Cove consistently ranks as one of the most chronically polluted in the state of California, and often receives an “F” on our annual Beach Report Card.

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Bridge Over Troubled Waters

The State Water Board today received a comprehensive water recycling policy for California that the state desperately needs to heed. After five months of intense negotiations, a coalition of water supply agencies, water recyclers, sewage treatment agencies and environmental groups, including Heal the Bay, wrote the policy in response to a draft effort completed by the water board that was universally opposed. 

The fate of the policy lies in the hands of the Water Board, but it is critical for the Schwarzenegger administration, including Lester Snow, director of the Department of Water Resources, and Secretary Linda Adams from Cal-EPA, to use the policy as a springboard for a more comprehensive and integrated water policy for all of California.

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