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New requirements may raise storm water costs

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Posted: Thursday, September 29, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 6:44 am, Thu Sep 29, 2011.

Ratepayers could soon see an increase in their stormwater fees because of stricter California requirements in the city’s storm water discharge permit. Businesses could also be burdened with additional costs.

Under the proposed new permit, the city would have to pay an additional $1 million a year to comply with the requirements, city spokesman Jeff Hood said. The city currently spends $650,000 a year to comply with the permit, so the increase would almost triple the budget, Hood said.

With the new regulations, the city and businesses would be required to study all of their parking lots and buildings to find out what runoff is coming from those areas and entering the storm drains. Then, the businesses and city would have to assess the best way to manage any pollution before it hits the waterways.

While it is good to know what is in the city’s runoff, the requirements are too much for small cities to handle, said Kathy Grant, who is the watershed education coordinator.

“It’s just going to kill us with the limited staff we have and what they are demanding. It’s not realistic,” Grant said.

The state issues the city a permit in order to let it discharge storm drains into the Mokelumne River and the Woodbridge Irrigation District.

The previous permit expired in 2005, but the conditions have remained the same since then. Now, the state Regional Water Quality Control Board is working on a new permit for cities and agencies in the area that is likely to be required in early 2012.

The state has already taken comments on the first draft of the permit, and will release a second version of the proposed permit in October.

The regulations would also require the city to do more outreach to the community and then measure the results, which Hood said he is not sure if that is even possible.

“How do you measure human behavior?” Hood said.

For businesses, it could result in not only costs, but drastic changes. For example, if a company stores wood outside and runoff from that area is polluted, the business might have to find a new place to store their supplies or find a way to eliminate the chemicals.

The city will have to look at all of its parks, parking lots and buildings, and then find a way to manage the storm water. It could be a challenge, Hood said, in places like public parking lots because the city has no control over who parks there.

“We can’t control if a car is leaking oil or not, but we would be responsible to make sure the oil doesn’t get into the storm drainage,” he said.

The paperwork alone to study the runoff, make changes and then monitor the changes at all the city’s facilities would require more staff or a consultant.

Hood said the positive side is it would make the water entering the rivers cleaner.

“But it’s a balancing act between the impact on the rivers and the cost,” he said.

Storm water is currently not tested before it goes into the waterways. The city discharges at 16 points to the Mokelumne and at two points to the Woodbridge Irrigation Canal.

The city already does a variety of activities to meet the state’s storm drain permit requirements, Hood said. For example, the city is required to do continuous street cleaning.

“It minimizes the sediment and vegetation that might wash into the Mokelumne. We hear people say the streets are not dirty, it doesn’t need to be swept. Whether you can see dirt or not, street sweeping is a requirement of the permit,” he said.

Everything that Grant does in her part-time job with the city helps satisfy the requirements, including organizing the Lodi Lake docents to teach people about storm water as they go on tours.

She also organizes the annual Coastal Cleanup and the Storm Water Detectives, a group of high-schoolers who monitor the lake’s and river’s water quality.

Mayor Bob Johnson said it is frustrating that the city is dealing with another state requirement that could dramatically raise the city’s cost immediately, without providing a source of funding.

“No one wants to see the river and ground table polluted, so storm water runoff is very important and has to be handled appropriately. But when people pass down these regulations, I don’t think that they take the cost into consideration,” Johnson said.

He said he wishes the state would offer a framework that gradually phases in the new requirements.

“You take a quantum leap from ‘A’ to ‘B,’ and there is no phasing,” Johnson said.

Contact reporter Maggie Creamer at maggiec@lodinews.com or read her blog at www.lodinews.com/blogs/city_buzz.

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  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 9:02 am on Fri, Sep 30, 2011.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9403

    Ted stated...These legal screws that are being turned are only the small progressions toward stealing the water legally.

    Ted... interesting post. You sound knowledgeable in this water issue. I would love to see you submit a letter that articulated the progressions you have observed and what could be done to prevent this water grab. I really am uneducated on this and have not followed as you have. Would be nice to see all the dots connected.

  • roy bitz posted at 6:33 pm on Thu, Sep 29, 2011.

    roy bitz Posts: 489

    Now I sorta understand why the street sweeper sweeps perfectly clean streets. Typical gubment boondoggle.
    As long as folks are allowed to park vehicles at the curb on sweeper day-- the sweeper program is a total waste of resources.

  • Ted Lauchland posted at 9:46 am on Thu, Sep 29, 2011.

    Ted Lauchland Posts: 229

    The state still doesn't get it. They are living in the perfect financially irresponsible world where money is no object and being politically correct with the -environment the most important thing to consider - using it as an excuse to be a able to take Northern Cal's water and send it south ruining the way of life north for cheaper water south and soaking us with the bill. Current Peripheral Canal talk says it will create jobs. It doesn't mention the jobs and thousands of acres of farmland that are lost because of it. These legal screws that are being turned are only the small progressions toward stealing the water legally. It's time the people stand up and say "No thank you" and refuse to cooperate.

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 9:00 am on Thu, Sep 29, 2011.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9403

    Under the proposed new permit, the city would have to pay an additional $1 million a year to comply with the requirements, city spokesman Jeff Hood said

    Good news!! More regulations... more expense and compliance. Exactly what California needs to attract businesses to California. I am very happy Meg Witman, who promised a better business environment was not elected. I cannot wait for the next mandate and how much it will cost.



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