Clean Beaches Measure: An Investment In L.A.'s Future

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Last month’s debate and hearing over the new stormwater permit for Los Angeles became contentious for Heal the Bay.  We weren’t happy with the final vote at the regional Water Board, but fortunately there’s a new initiative afoot that could have a real positive impact on local water quality – Los Angeles County’s Clean Water, Clean Beaches Measure.

Despite the differing views on how to regulate cities that discharge runoff into the Bay, the various stakeholders involved all want the same thing: clean water.  It may sound a bit idealistic, but the best way to make progress on stormwater is to have government agencies, business groups and environmental organizations join hands and work together. That is why Heal the Bay strongly supports the Clean Water, Clean Beaches Measure, which will be mailed to property owners next spring.

The County of Los Angeles Flood Control District is proposing to establish an annual clean water fee to fund the Clean Water, Clean Beaches Program.  This Program is an opportunity for Los Angeles County residents to reduce harmful trash and pollution in our waterways and protect local sources of drinking water from contamination. The measure would provide $270 million in funding for innovative stormwater projects that would create multiple economic and environmental benefits for the entire region. These projects serve multiple functions. For example, a stormwater infiltration area could be designed in such a way that it will double as open space, park or local ball field.

Securing clean water in a heavily urbanized environment such as Los Angeles doesn’t happen overnight. It requires resources.  And regional waterbodies are well-worth protecting. Locals and tourists alike frequent Los Angeles County’s beaches, yet 7 out of the 10 of California’s most polluted beaches are right in our own backyard.  This means that a day at the beach could make you or your family sick.  Pollution that runs off our streets can be toxic to fish and other species.  As a result some fish species in our Bay are unsafe to eat.  Trash pollution is so extreme in some areas of the County that our rivers look more like trash dumps.  The current paradigm needs to shift.    

Investing in clean water now will pay dividends for years to come. Nearly 400,000 jobs in Los Angeles County are ocean-related, responsible for $10 billion annually in wages and $20 billion in goods and services.  In addition, the measure will result in thousands of new jobs for our region.  

Currently Los Angeles County depends on importing costly and increasingly scarce water from Northern California and the Colorado River. Storm water can serve as a sustainable, cost-effective local source of drinking water.  The measure would fund innovative infrastructure projects throughout the region that capture and reuse stormwater --- before it enters our waterways. Stormwater becomes an asset, rather than a liability.

Our region’s water quality has come a long way, since Heal the Bay started working for a healthier Bay in 1985.  However, we have a long way to go.  The Clean Water, Clean Beaches measure will help us meet our goals for clean water. The average homeowner would pay roughly $54 a year to support projects like green streets, stormwater recharge areas and “smart” trash capture systems. Strict accountability elements in the measure ensure all funds will be exclusively used on improving water quality.

We urge your support of this critical measure. Watch your mailbox in late spring, but in the coming weeks we’ll keep you posted on new developments.

Learn more about the Clean Water, Clean Beaches Measure