New Storm Water Runoff Rules Could Be Costly for South Bay Cities

The new Regional Water Board regulations could end up costing South Bay cities millions of dollars in the coming years.

Editor's Note: This article was updated on Friday, Nov. 16 with comment from the city of Rancho Palos Verdes.

New storm water runoff regulations passed by the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board last week have many municipalities in Los Angeles County considering their options as the new costs associated with compliance could reach into the millions for some cities.

According to the water board, the new regulations are designed to reduce the amount of trash, metals, bacteria, chemicals and pesticides that wash from storm drains into local waterways and cause beach closings, contaminated fish and trash accumulation, among other things.

The new regulations update and renew previous mandates that were passed in 2001 that failed to reach the water quality improvement goals that the board hoped for, the Los Angeles Times reported.

"Clean water is vitally important for our health and for the environment,” Regional Water Board Executive Officer Samuel Unger said in a release. “The new regulations are designed to give municipalities the flexibility to design a strategy that meets clean water goals in the most cost effective way.”

However, some South Bay municipalities said that the new permit requirements are going to entail additional costs and are already planning to challenge the new mandates.

Last week, the Redondo Beach City Council unanimously approved a motion to file an administrative petition with the State Water Resources Control Board challenging the new permit regulations. Of the other issues the city has with the new permit is that the new mandates lack funding.

According to staff reports, costs related to storm water-related maintenance and operations expenses in Redondo Beach will increase by up to $200,000 per year. In addition, the new regulations will require the city to spend approximately $19 million in additional capital expenditure over the next 10 years.

According to the Los Angeles Times, unless Los Angeles County voters approve a new parcel tax that is being prepared by the county flood control district, these new requirements have no current source of funding.

“We are talking about adding what amounts to a couple million dollars a year for the next 10 years of additional costs to the city with no funding mechanism," Redondo Beach Councilman Matt Kilroy said at the Nov. 6 council meeting. "We have found that if we don't challenge permit regulations now, then we lose all ability to do so in the future." 

Additionally, the City of Redondo Beach took issue with the fact that the city would be held responsible for pollution that originated outside the city's border and outside its control.

“In many cases, the cause and/or remedy of the water quality problem are unknown," a staff report stated. "Other agencies such as Caltrans, schools, state agencies, and other contributors such as air deposition, wildlife, etc. could foreseeably be responsible for certain water quality problems but are not under the control of the municipal permittee."

Just up the road, the City of Hermosa Beach is also looking into the new requirements and their ramifications but has not yet taken any action, according to Public Works Director Frank Senteno.

"Exactly how it is going to affect the city, we still don't know that yet because we still need to analyze (the permit) and break it down," Senteno said. "There are many components to the permit." 

But, Senteno did say the new requirements will come at a price.

"Without a doubt... They will increase cost to the city," Senteno said.

Rancho Palos Verdes on the Palos Verdes Peninsula is taking a similar course of action to Hermosa Beach and will analyze the new requirements before making a move.

According to Andy Winje, a city engineer with RPV, the new permit contains about 400 more pages than the previous permit, all of which need to be studied.

"It has become that much more complex," said Winje. "It is a tough challenge and we all want clean water but how clean is clean enough and how much do we want to spend to get there," he said.

"It will certainly increase costs because there are increased costs for monitoring and reporting at the very least," Winje continued. "We don't expect costs to come down at all."

Cities that do decide to file a petition challenging the new permit must do so by December 8.

If cities do choose to file a petition with the state water board, legal costs typically amount to around $25,000, according to the Redondo Beach staff report. However, as the staff report pointed out, the legal costs can be shared with other cities looking to file the same petition.

Other cities in the area that may consider challenging the new permit include Lawndale, Carson and Lomita, according to the report.


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