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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

City Approves NRDC Settlement

•  Undesignated Fund to Drop Below $10 Million

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Malibu City Council, without comment from its members or the public, this week approved part of a settlement agreement that requires another quarter of a million dollars be withdrawn from the general fund undesignated reserve.
The action is the result of litigation between the Natural Resources Defense Council/ Santa Monica Baykeeper and the municipality about allegations the city violated the Clean Water Act.
Both groups made it a point of the settlement agreement that the $250,000 be transferred to what is being called a Water Quality Settlement Designated Reserve, according to Assistant City Manager Reva Feldman.
The funds used to establish the designated reserve was not included in the adopted budget for fiscal year 2012-2013.
In a memo to the council, Feldman indicated the city recently finalized the terms for the settlement agreement with NRDC/Baykeeper, and as a result of the agreement, the municipality is required to establish the $250,000 reserve.
For the first time in many years, the city’s undesignated reserve will dip below $10 million by the end of the current fiscal year.
The $250,000 will be used to fund what is called the Ocean Health Near-Shore Water Quality Assessment described as a study that will “focus on assessing public health risks at local beaches and providing the public with timely and meaningful information on such risks.”
“The primary goals are to identify safe and healthy beaches within the City of Malibu and notify the public of beach water quality and any potential health risks,” Feldman noted in her memo.
The city will be required to explore various ways to provide public notification of beach water quality in real time.
“The city will investigate options for using rapid indicator technology and predictive modeling, which would allow the city to quickly assess public health risks at local beaches and to provide public notification of water quality earlier than traditional methods,” Feldman added.
As part of the assessment, the city will also explore the technological options available to provide beach water quality information in real time, including web-based, email and phone notification systems.
The second goal of the assessment study is to complete a more comprehensive assessment of the water quality and health risks at local beaches.
Using other regional monitoring programs coupled with the city’s data and its modeling programs, the hope remains that the information will be made available to the public in a web-based format, according to Feldman.
The city just recently spent another
$100,000 to participate in a regional monitoring program for what are called Areas of Special Biological Significance, which are the coastal waters stretching almost half the length of Malibu, which contain pristine and biologically diverse sections of the state’s coastline. That money, not budgeted, will also come from the undesignated reserve.
The council is also anticipating spending another $100,000 for an additional biofiltration drain unit on Broad Beach, which is being required by the settlement agreement. The money must also come from the undesignated fund reserve.
The Broad Beach project is already underway, mostly funded from grant funds.
When the settlement was announced, city officials indicated council members approved paying the environmental groups’ attorney fees of $750,000, set aside $250,000 towards the city’s ocean water health assessment and to install improvements to 17 drains citywide worth about $5.6 million to 17 drains.
At the time, City Attorney Christi Hogin said the city has grants amounting to $2.7 million for 11 of the 17 drains and would continue to look for more grant money for the rest.

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