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Developers win fight on runoff

Christopher Stolz
Ventura County Star
07/16/2010

In a decision that outraged environmentalists and pleased builders, the Southern California Regional Water Quality Control Board recently overturned an innovative new rule designed to control pollution that is carried to local waters and the ocean with the year’s first significant rainfall.

After three years of development, the water board last year approved a “low impact development” plan for Ventura County, requiring developments to hold on the site nearly all water from the first inch of rain in the fall.

But a new plan allows builders to use “biofiltration,” a means by which most but not all of the first flush of rainwater is filtered through soil before being allowed into waterways.

“It’s been a long process, but with the board now allowing biofiltration we think most projects will be able to comply with the requirements, and we think we’re going to be able to treat stormwater on-site effectively,” said Mark Grey, director of environmental affairs for the Building Industry Association of Southern California.

Environmentalists complained about the decision and process that led to the decision last week. They said the meeting took many hours and required the board to halt discussion so the staff could gather in another room to write the new permit regulations.

“The permit hearing and the discussion about proposed changes to the permit reflected what was an almost absurdly widespread confusion over what the final changes would actually require,” said Noah Garrison, an attorney with the National Resources Defense Council.

Garrison, who attended the meeting, said the ruling last year reflected almost nine months of negotiation among cities, building advocates, environmental agencies, and his organization and another environmental group, Heal the Bay.

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