Los Angeles County Officials Upset Over Court Decision On Water Pollution
Los Angeles County officials are disappointed with a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision that holds them responsible for stormwater and urban runoff pollution, officials said Friday.
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“Really, the issue is in regard to the overall responsibility regarding the stormwater pollution on a countywide basis,” said Bob Spencer, chief spokesman for L.A. County Public Works
The county’s Flood Control District monitors effluence in the Los Angeles, San Gabriel and Santa Clara rivers, among others, and pollution levels.
The Natural Resources Defense Council and Santa Monica Baykeeper contend that the county is responsible for cleaning up contaminants. The court found Thursday in favor of the plaintiffs.
County officials say they’ve spent millions on education and programming for cleanup efforts, but it needs to be a cooperative effort with municipalities upstream.
Part of the idea behind the ill-fated and since-tabled Clean Water, Clean Beaches Act, is that the county wanted to collect money from municipalities and use it for programming and cleanup efforts to address pollution, said Gary Hildebrand, director of Watershed Management for the Department of Public Works.
The effort has been there from the county, however the stormwater measure missed the mark by not having clear goals and definable projects for the funds that would be collected, said Edel Vizcarra, a planning deputy in county Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich’s office.
“It wasn’t so much that it was a bad tax it’s that the structure was flawed from the beginning,” Vizcarra said. “The Flood Control District is still meeting with a lot of cities and looking at different options to find a solution.”
The ruling reverses a court decision made seven months earlier in a case brought by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Santa Monica Baykeeper.
Gail Farber, chief engineer of the Flood Control District and director of the county’s Department of Public Works, said the decision adopts an argument about stormwater monitoring that the court expressly rejected
“We view this as another legal skirmish in a case we thought had been resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court,” Farber said. “It is unfortunate that this case continues to divert public resources away from the work of improving water quality in the L.A. region.”
The county’s attorneys are still looking at Thursday’s decision, and have not determined what, if any impact, could be drawn from the ruling.
It was too early to tell if the decision would restart talk of the Clean Water Clean Beaches Act, which Antonovich was ardently opposed to, or if the county’s counsel would fight the decision.
“County counsel is still sorting through it,” said Tony Bell, spokesman for Antonovich. “To draw conclusions at this point would be premature."
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