Water bond measure could reduce pollution in Ballona Creek

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Improved water quality in Ballona Creek could be one of the potential benefits, as well as financial support for water infiltration initiatives, if voters pass a statewide water infrastructure bond next month.

Proposition 1, known as the Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014, would authorize $7.12 billion in general obligation bonds for state water supply infrastructure projects such as public water system improvements, surface and groundwater storage, drinking water protection, water recycling and advanced water treatment technology, drought relief, emergency water supplies, and ecosystem and watershed protection and restoration. Advocates of the bond say it will help regional water utilities such as the Metropolitan Water District.

Culver City does not have a water utility. The city’s businesses and residents are served primarily by Golden State Water Company; therefore, the city does not have a direct interest in the water supply and storage components of the bond, said Culver City Public Works Director Charles Herbertson.

There is, however, a component within the proposed legislation that allows for money for water infiltration projects that capture and infiltrate storm water into the ground. That, in turn, would recharge ground water supplies and that is an area in which the city has a substantial interest.

“Culver City is working with the City of Los Angeles and other cities in the Ballona Creek watershed to develop a plan that will meet the newest storm water mandates. A large part of the plan will involve infiltration of storm water,” Herbertson told the News. “So undoubtedly Culver City will be working with Los Angeles to apply for bond funding to help fund some of these projects in the future.”

The Los Angeles City Council passed a resolution in support of Prop. 1 on Oct. 1.

“Prop 1 will help L.A. reduce our use of expensive imported water by helping us clean our local groundwater, capture stormwater and recycle runoff. Prop 1 will fix our infrastructure and clean our environment,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti in a statement. “This is a fiscally and environmentally responsible step that will help us cope with severe drought. The City of Los Angeles stands with the state Democratic and Republican Party, [California U.S.] Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein and Gov. Jerry Brown in supporting this.”

Culver City Mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells would like to see her council take a position on Prop. 1, as well.

“From what I’ve heard about it, [the water bond] sounds like a good strategy,” the mayor said.

Sahli-Wells said the state and Culver City have been hit with the “double-whammy” of the drought as well as federal and state mandates to decrease water pollution and funding for the water infiltration initiatives that the bond could provide. As mentioned by Herbertson, this is essential to enhancing the creek’s water quality.

According to a poll released on Sept. 30 by the Public Policy Institute of California, 58 percent of likely voters favor passing the water bond.

Dry weather urban and storm water runoff are the largest sources of pollution in Ballona Creek, which empties into the Santa Monica Bay.

Steven Fleischli, the head of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s national water program, said while there has been some reduction of storm water pollution in certain areas, during the scant periods of rain those levels tend to rise.

“Where there are stormwater diversions we’ve seen some improvement,” Fleischli said. “I think generally it has improved during dry weather but we’re still having problems in wet weather.”

The Southern California Coastal Water Research Project conducted an analysis on Ballona Creek that showed dry-season runoff from streams and rivers can be a significant contributor to total annual pollutant loads in waterways like the creek, particularly in arid environments where dry season stream flow comes mainly from urban runoff and other urban effluents.

“Making a distinction between wet-and dry-season pollutant loading characteristics is important because management strategies differ for these two types of sources,” the study stated.

The coastal water project, created in 1969, is a research institute focusing on the coastal ecosystems of Southern California from watersheds to the ocean.

Water bond measure could reduce pollution in Ballona Creek