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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

City Council Unanimously Approves Money for ASBS

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu City Council, at its meeting this week, agreed to spend $110,000 from its undesignated general fund to be used to conduct a monitoring program along approximately the 11.7-mile coastline along the city’s western boundary designated as an Area of Special Biological Significance or ASBS.
City Senior Environmental Programs Coordinator Jennifer Brown explained the protected area declared by the state an ASBS refers to the diversity and richness of biological resources found in those waters along that part of the city’s coastline.
In order to help maintain natural water quality within some of the most pristine and biologically diverse sections of California’s coastline, the State Water Resources Control Board created ASBS. No pollutants are allowed to be discharged within these protected waters. Currently there are 34 such areas. Malibu is home to the largest ASBS, number 24 which was designated by the state in 1974.
ASBS #24 stretches twenty-four miles along the coast from Latigo Point to Laguna Point, beyond the county line, covering about half of the Malibu coast. Specific regulations or what the state calls “special protections” are mandated for the ASBS.
Brown told city council members one of the “special protections” afforded the ASBS is that no discharge of storm water is allowed into the ASBS.
The State Water Resources Control Board notified the city in 2004 about the prohibition and the city was and is required to request an “exception” to be able to continue the discharges, according to Brown.
Three years later, the SWRCB invited the city to participate in an ASBS regional monitoring program in exchange for reduced requirements under the then pending “special protections.”
Those regulatory conditions called “special protections” were adopted by the SWRCB on March 20, 2012, according to Brown.
The regional monitoring program includes water quality monitoring and biological resources studies in the Southland with various participating agencies sharing the costs.
In 2008, the council had allocated $98,300 to participate in the program.
Those studies, which were administered by the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project put the participating entities including the city at the forefront of the effort to assess the biological and water quality resources in the ASBS, according to Brown’s staff report.
“This information led to the state making a decision to grant the exception. Participation in the 2008 program also reduced the number of required storm events that the city will need to monitor for the special protection,” the staff report states.
The agenda item appeared before the Administration & Finance subcommittee, which gives financial matters its consideration since it involves an allocation over $25,000.
“The city must comply with state adopted ASBS special protections requiring that it conduct an individual program of water quality monitoring and biological assessments.
 Alternatively, the city may participate in a regional program that affords a reduced suite of monitoring requirements,” Brown said.
Now a deadline approaches, agencies such as the city must notify the state by Aug 1 of whether as dischargers they will conduct their own monitoring program or participate regionally.
The council unanimously agreed to participate in the regional study and spend the $110,000.
Why so much emphasis on the ASBS? The allegations by the Santa Monica Baykeeper and the Natural Resources Defense Council about the city violating the Clean Water Act at one time included accusations the city fouled the waters of the ASBS and was guilty of violations of the Clean Water Act..
Consequently, city council members are also looking at spending $113,000 for additional design services for the Broad Beach biofiltration project as required by the Natural Resources Defense Council/Santa Monica Baykeeper legal settlement.
The city recently finalized the terms of the settlement agreement between the city and the NRDC/Baykeeper and as a result of the agreement, the city is required to install biofiltration improvements at an additional drain along Broad Beach Road.
 The council has not yet acted on that allocation, but the matter has already been reviewed by the A&F subcommittee.
The adopted budget for fiscal year 2012-2013 includes $2,097,462 for the biofiltration system. Additionally         design services are needed as required by the settlement agreement.
An appropriation of $113,000 would come from the undesignated reserve fund. The projected fund reserve would drop down to $9.7 million by June, 30, 2013.
As a result of finalizing the agreement with the enviro groups, the city agreed to install biofilation improvements at an additional drain along Broad Beach. The drain was not included in the current design contract.
The current project calls for eight locations along the beach.
The cost to design the additional Broad Beach biofiltration improvements and  monitoring stations is $113,000.

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