Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Testimony to BOS on Stormwater Permit

September 11, 2007 Comments to Ventura County Board of Supervisors

RE: Study Session to Discuss Implications from Future Stormwater and Total Maximum Daily Load Requirements on Ventura County

My name is Paul Jenkin and I represent the Ventura County Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation. My comments today are on behalf of the approximately 1000 members in the county, and all the other thousands of residents and visitors that use our county’s beaches.

Since 1991, our members have participated in volunteer programs such as the “Blue Water Task Force,” “Stream Team,” and storm drain stenciling. This participation is largely because many people get sick every year from surfing or swimming at our county’s beaches.

Recent reports such as from the Joint Oceans Commission led to the California Ocean Plan, West Coast Governors Agreement, and other initiatives that have identified Urban Runoff as a significant threat to the health of our oceans. All of these agree that a new approach is required to solve this problem, with recommendations to implement what is now known as “Ecosystem Based Management.”

The root cause of this problem is traditional urban infrastructure. Our society has implemented a conveyance approach to flood control, resulting in impervious urban areas and hydromodification of our watersheds. It is clear that this approach is not working, with concrete leading to more concrete, and as you heard from some of the cities today, their flooding problems are getting worse. This is because stormwater has been treated as a threat, rather than the resource that it should be.

Quite frankly I am disappointed by the resistance to regulation that I am hearing today. The stormwater permit has been around for over a decade, but nothing has changed. So called “environmental groups” like Surfrider comment on individual projects one at a time, but the CEQA process does not adequately account for cumulative impacts.

Major changes are needed. But this permit may be seen as a threat to traditional flood control and the development permit process. Regional planning is desperately needed on a watershed basis, rather than the current piecemeal permitting of development.

In addition, major retrofitting is needed to the existing infrastructure in order to implement what I call “reverse hydromodification.” The solution to urban runoff lies in integrated solutions and what is known as “green infrastructure.” This approach should integrate flood control with water supply, parks, bikeways, and more. This is a necessary response to climate change as we experience longer droughts and greater flooding in the future.

As others have said today, pollution is waste, and we are wasting our stormwater, and in the process polluting our oceans.

On a positive note, the Surfrider Foundation is launching a new program called “Ocean Friendly Gardens.” This is intended to educate residents about the urban runoff problem, and demonstrate how they can re-landscape their own property to retain and infiltrate stormwater.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment today.