After failing to submit mandatory annual reports about their stormwater management plans for three consecutive years, the city of Grover Beach agreed to pay a $35,000 fine to the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board on Feb. 10.
Despite numerous warnings about their error, Grover Beach leaders didn’t submit any annual reports to the board between 2010 and 2012. In addition, the city flunked a water board audit of its stormwater management program on March 14, 2013.
“Central Coast Water Board staff found that the Discharger [Grover Beach] is in violation or deficient in implementation of almost every General Permit requirement and Stormwater Management Plan (SWMP) Best Management Practice (BMP) related to the Stormwater Management Program components inspected,” the board wrote in a June 26, 2013 civil liability complaint.
Ever since that complaint was filed, Grover Beach and the water board have been negotiating a settlement, which they finally agreed upon in February.
The city is slated to pay an “administrative civil liability” of $35,000 from its reserves to the water board. The settlement has to pass through a public review period before it’s presented to the board for adoption on March 12.
“We feel like we gave them a lot of chances to come into compliance before we handed down the fine, but they didn’t do that,” said Phil Hammer, a senior environmental scientist with the water board.
When asked why the city was so deficient in this area, Grover Beach City Manager Bob Perrault said the city found new permitting requirements enacted in 2009 (including mandatory annual reports and more comprehensive stormwater management requirements) to be onerous and beyond the city’s limited financial means.
“We appealed the new permitting requirements, but the board denied our appeal,” Perrault told New Times. “We failed to meet the reporting requirements for three years while we were scrambling to try and figure it all out.”
Perrault said the city has since filed all the missing reports, established a stormwater management plan via a ratepayer utility fee of $4.50 per month, and is currently “in the process” of complying with their stormwater management permit.
According to water board Section Manager Harvey Packard, common stormwater management plan provisions include street sweeping, maintenance of storm drains, controlling pollution from construction and new development, and identifying and halting illegal discharges.
“Almost all municipal agencies in California have to comply with these stormwater management permits, and overall compliance by the agencies has been excellent,” Packard said.
Perrault said that the lack of staffing and resources were the main cause of the city’s failures, as Grover Beach ended up prioritizing other, more urgent matters.
“Sometimes, circumstances make it a little more difficult to comply,” Perrault said. “Hindsight is 20/20, but I would make the same decision over again.”