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River cleanup time has come

May 01, 2003

What for too long was a trickle seems finally, thankfully, a flood.

Each week, almost, there is news of yet another bill, group or

plan designed to clean up and keep clean the Santa Ana River and, by

short extension, Newport Beach.

In February, Huntington Beach Assemblyman Tom Harman introduced an

amendment to state law that would require two-thirds voter approval

for any new fees or taxes. Importantly, the bill would add

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urban-runoff to the list of water fees that could be imposed without

a vote and could generate millions of dollars to pay for cleanup

efforts.

His colleague, Assemblyman Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana), has proposed

creating an umbrella agency similar to the Santa Monica Mountains

Conservancy as a means to set aside land for open space and parks.

The bill has the backing of Harman and Costa Mesa Assemblyman Ken

Maddox, though local officials--including the Board of

Supervisors--are balking about loss of local control. It is a plan

that deserves support and the effort of all to find a solution to the

disagreements.

Newport Beach is intent on cleaning up a concrete drain along

Coast Highway and Seashore Drive that dumps a "bacteria stew" into

the river, an obvious step that should have quick, clear benefits

along the river and Newport's beaches.

And across the river, Huntington Beach officials this summer will

receive specific plans to handle urban runoff that includes a

detailed map, drawn with a global positioning satellite, of the 1,700

catch basins in the city.

All of these efforts come on top of $424 million in work completed

by the Army Corps of Engineers two years ago that helped reduce the

number of people in the river's flood plain. If all goes well, the

Army Corps will return next year to dredge the river near the Adams

Avenue over-crossing.

Obviously, it is not easy or cheap to clean up the river. And

there is an understandable amount of complaining that Newport and

Huntington officials are having to carry the weight of the work and

the brunt of the cost. But it is the "downriver" people, those

fortunate to live near where the river meets the sea, who benefit

most from clean water and clean shorelines.

Having both is worth the effort and the cost.

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