The legislation, known as Senate Bill 816, would have limited regional
water boards in issuing cleanup orders for urban runoff. The board uses
the orders as its primary enforcement mechanism.
Johnson introduced the bill Feb. 23, and promptly drew criticism from
environmentalists, who said it would have made it easier for polluters to
illegally discharge waste into the bay.
"Since there were concerns that were raised that could not be worked
out, we dropped the bill," said Susie Swatt, a spokeswoman for Johnson.
Newport Beach Deputy City Manager Dave Kiff, who wrote the bill for
the senator, said he still hopes to find a way to protect cities from
cease-and-desist orders on urban runoff. Such orders can required a city
to eliminate runoff by a fairly strict timeline.
That approach is unrealistic, Kiff said.
"No city is going to be able to eliminate urban runoff in any less
than three years," Kiff said. "It isn't some nebulous polluter you can
just fine. What we're talking about is everyday runoff from our homes."
A cleanup order naming Newport Beach would force the city to use its
officers to police water use, Kiff said.
Defend the Bay founder Bob Caustin, who lobbied heavily against the
bill, rejoiced over its demise.
Cities should work to educate the water-using public and adopt tougher
rules for bigger commercial users, Caustin said.
"It was a bad idea from day one," Caustin said about the bill. "Joe
Sprinkler is not the problem. You've got guys in the commercial business
and restaurants that are dumping stuff in the bay. . . . For [city
officials] to sidestep their responsibility is totally unacceptable."
Kiff attributed the bill's failure to a quirk in the language. Kiff
said he regretted using the term "non-point" to describe urban runoff
that can't be traced to a specific source. Runoff can legally be traced
to a "point" source when it enters a city gutter, according to the