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City looks to prevent runoff

May 12, 2003

Deirdre Newman

A national water board says the city needs to focus more

comprehensively on protecting the Santa Ana River from pollution when

dealing with new development and significant redevelopment or pay

stiff fines.

On Monday, the Planning Commission will consider changing the 2000

General Plan to incorporate additional water quality protection and

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storm water quality management policies. It also has to submit its

own local plan to the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board.

Both are required as part of the National Pollutant Discharge

Elimination System.

This is the third time the city has had to take specific steps to

qualify for a permit by the board. Each time, the requirements were

built upon the previous steps.

"It's a good idea to protect against urban runoff and pollutants

into the ocean and we should do our best to contribute to that

effort," said Planning Commissioner Katrina Foley.

The board issued Costa Mesa's first permit in 1990 to the Orange

County Stormwater Program -- a partnership between the county, all

cities within Orange County and the Orange County Flood Control

District. The program focused on gathering data about existing

conditions and setting up an initial set of improvement measures

aimed at known water quality deficiencies. The second permit, issued

in 1996, built upon the knowledge gained during the first permit

period. Its goal was to improve water quality incrementally.

The city's own plan will describe how it will meet or exceed the

requirements measures laid out by the county in its Drainage Area

Management Plan. It will also include specific thresholds for issues

like the amount of soil disturbance and storm water runoff. New

development and significant redevelopment projects are subject to

national storm water permit requirements if they exceed these

thresholds.

Some recommended new general plan policies include:

* Avoid conversion of areas particularly susceptible to erosion

and sediment loss and/or establish development guidelines that

identify these areas and protect them from erosion and sediment loss;

* Promote integration of storm water quality protection into

construction and post-construction activities, as required by the

National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Stormwater Permit and

the city's plan;

* Implement urban runoff pollution control measures and programs

to attempt to reduce and control the discharge of pollutants into

storm drains to the maximum extent practicable;

* And coordinate with other local government agencies on

countywide land use issues to maintain a watershed-based approach to

land use, flood control and nonpoint source pollution prevention.

The city must adopt its plan by July.

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