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Santa Clarita asks for pass on clean water charge

Posted: June 24, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: June 24, 2013 2:00 a.m.

While officials in Los Angeles County wrangled earlier this year over how to levy a fee to fund storm water cleanup efforts, Santa Clarita and some other cities asked to be exempt from having the fees imposed because they already had programs in place to address the matter.

Santa Clarita collects an average annual fee of $22.45 per single-family home to fund a variety of projects aimed at keeping debris from making its way into storm drains and eventually into the Santa Clara River.

These projects including putting screens on storm drains and catch basins, as well as sweeping the streets to reduce the amount of dirt, dust or debris that could eventually find its way into the river, according to Santa Clarita Environmental Services Manager Travis Lange.

The county is proposing a fee to accomplish the same thing, but its estimated cost per single-family home is $54 a year.

The city will use an estimated $328,000 in funds collected through its cleanup fee to fund capital projects, such as upgrades to storm drains and culverts next fiscal year, according to an annual report submitted to the Santa Clarita City Council in early June.

Other expenditures include an estimated $562,224 to fund street-sweeping services and $45,000 to fund hazardous waste collection efforts.

Education is also a large part of the equation, Lange said last week.

“A lot of time with these regulations, there aren’t just a few of them and they’re not always easy to interpret,” Lange said. “So a big part of what we do is try to educate people about them.”

Some major education efforts include telling people not to wash their cars in a location where the water could carry muck and grime into the storm drain, or simply letting people know not to dispose of waste down the drains.
The city also spends money on hazardous waste collection efforts, giving citizens the opportunity to dispose of materials such as oil or paint that may otherwise find its way into the river.

Successful education efforts make it less necessary for potentially costly capital projects down the line, according to Lange.

“At the end of the day our real big push is to prevent pollution from happening at all,” Lange said.

The rationale behind all these efforts is ensuring compliance with state and federal water quality laws, according to Lange.

Failing to comply with those requirements could land the city in hot water with regulators, potentially leading to fines down the road.

That same rationale has been cited by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works to justify the Clean Water, Clean Beaches measure, a proposed countywide fee that would be used to fund storm water cleanup efforts.

One of the major issues raised by cities, including Santa Clarita, was that the county’s fee did not take into account the efforts already being made by cities to comply with water-quality mandates.

And with the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors set to take up the matter again Tuesday, Lange said last week it still hasn’t been made clear to him whether Clean Water, Clean Beaches would be assessed on top of the city’s existing fee.

“We haven’t had that discussion,” Lange said.


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