SLO County Board of Supervisors protests storm water runoff proposal

Alarmed at what they consider government overreaching, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors is joining a coalition and formally protesting proposed state rules for storm water runoff that would force local governments to do far more regulating without providing the money to carry it out.

The proposed rules should be “enshrined in the regulators’ hall of fame,” Supervisor Bruce Gibson said.The proposal is “a huge regulatory burden in a very bad economy,” according to Mike Brown of the Coalition of Labor, Agriculture, and Business, a citizens’ group.

Among the many new requirements that would be forced upon local governments: multiple local ordinance revisions; highly detailed annual analyses; and an annual monitoring of “every commercial and industrial business.”

Gibson called it “a long laundry list” of things that is being set forth by the state without regard for its implications.

Further, supervisors noted in a letter to the California Water Resources Control Board, the state is promulgating the regulations with an “apparent lack of any consideration for the efficient use of limited financial resources.”

That is government language that means the state is telling a local government body that it must do a particular thing but failing to provide the money to do it. Governments call this an “unfunded mandate.”

Mark Hutchinson, county environmental program manager, said costs would be spread across several departments and will be hard to assess. But they are likely to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The county currently spends almost a quarter million dollars a year from the general fund for its storm water program, he said.

The regulations would apply to any government that serves a population of more than 10,000 people. In San Luis Obispo County, that would include the county government, all seven incorporated cities and the community services districts of Templeton, Los Osos and Oceano.

The regulations build on efforts that began in the 1970s to keep polluted runoff from getting into creeks and other waterways, and the ocean. The county considers that goal worthy.

“We recognize the importance of environmental stewardship,” Hutchinson wrote in a staff report.

But there’s a limit to how far the government should go, supervisors said.

The board sent a letter of protest to the water board and signed up for the Statewide Stormwater Coalition, formed to rein in the new regulations.

Others in the coalition include the cities of Morro Bay, San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles, Santa Maria and Monterey; five other counties, including Monterey County; the Los Osos Community Services District; and large statewide government organizations, including the California Association of Counties and the League of California Cities.

Supervisors told their staff to work with other agencies in the county that are subject to the same storm water regulations.