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New workbook to protect Mokelumne River from pollution

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Posted: Thursday, February 23, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 9:13 am, Thu Feb 23, 2012.

Did you know you should wash your car on the grass so the runoff is filtered through the soil? Or that when you spray weeds in the sidewalk cracks with pesticides, it goes into the storm drains which flow directly into the Mokelumne River?

These tips are part of a workbook that will help Lodi residents know how they can help protect the river in their day-to-day lives.

The city of Lodi and the Lower Mokelumne River Watershed Stewardship Steering Committee teamed up to draft the suggestions, said Matthew Bronson, chair of the committee.

The city and committee are holding a community workshop at 6 p.m. Monday at Carnegie Forum where residents can receive a draft copy of the workbook and offer suggestions on how it can be improved.

The final workbook will be released in May and put in public places for Lodi residents to pick up. It will also be available online.

"It's a living document. We want to share it with as many people as possible," Bronson said.

Bronson said the goal is to get homeowners throughout Lodi to read the book and then consciously make decisions on how to stop polluted water from entering the storm drains, which goes directly into the Mokelumne River untreated.

One major example is washing cars in front or backyards because the soil filters out any chemicals, as opposed to on the street, where the excess washes into the drain.

Neighborhood Services Manager Joseph Wood said the city already encourages residents to do this, and it is the only exception in the city code that allows someone to park on a lawn.

Another suggestion is diverting any rain from the gutters into flower beds instead of letting it run into the street.

Many people notice the fish painted on the storm drains that say no dumping, but this takes it a step further, Wood said.

"It brings it from the fish back to individual property to make people know what they can do to actually help water quality," he said.

The idea for a watershed user's guide has been around for almost a dozen years, said John Brodie, the watershed coordinator for the San Joaquin County Resource Conservation District. Brodie originally created a 70-page watershed owner's manual modeled after a similar document that the Lodi Winegrape Commission drafted to help farmers become better stewards of the land, he said.

As they distributed the manual, Brodie said they found that it was targeted more toward living on a rural 5-acre ranch and that 70 pages was overwhelming for some people.

So they decided to create the workbook.

"We wanted to create this in order to really help reach the people in the residential urban and suburban areas. Some of the issues are the same, but a lot of the issues are different," he said.

The 10-page workbook has self-assessments as well as tips on how to cleanup storm water.

"We picked a short number of topics, where people could make the greatest difference in the shortest amount of time, with the least amount of expense," Brodie said.

A $28,000 grant through the Smart Valley Places Compact is paying for the workbook, Wood said. The city joined the compact, which includes 13 other cities, about a year and a half ago to apply for the Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant.

The grant is through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

It is also paying for a state-mandated $120,000 climate action plan and a $52,000 update of the city's development code.

The city needs to update the development code from the original 1950s zoning ordinance so that is has the same policies and regulations as the city's current General Plan, which is a document to guide growth during the next two decades.

With the storm water workbook, Wood said he hopes people realize that sustainably is not a bad thing, and there are simple things everyone can do to help the environment.

"We want to preserve the environment, so people in the future can enjoy what we have today," he said.

Contact reporter Maggie Creamer at maggiec@lodinews.com. Read her blog at www.lodinews.com/blogs/citybuzz.

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