Once again, the most interesting item at last night’s City Council meeting was one not on the Agenda. After the invocation and flag salute, City Attorney Jeff Epp announced that at their closed session, the Council had directed staff to maintain all options including an appeal, regarding the litigation, Stuck in the Rough, LLC. vs. City of Escondido et al. No surprise there. Wonder how long Mayor Sam Abed, Deputy Mayor Mike Morasco, Councilman Ed Gallo, and Councilman John Masson can continue to delay the issue?
Agenda item 19: Stormwater Alternative Compliance – Awarding a Consulting Agreement for a Hydraulic Study of Creeks in Escondido, gave the Council another chance to grouse about the regulations designed to decrease pollution of stormwater and non-stormwater runoff. Near the beginning of her presentation, Environmental Programs Manager Helen Davies rhetorically asked, why was such a study necessary? Predictably, Gallo muttered, “that was my question.” Davies went on to give a good explanation. Under the current rules, new building developments must be able to contain all water run-off onsite, or treat it before it enters the municipal stormwater drainage system. This would be very difficult or impossible for some properties, and, to ease that predicament the City wished to develop an alternative compliance policy in which the developer, if not able to handle all the water onsite, could mitigate by improving the quality of water at an offsite location. This hydraulic study would analyze Escondido’s watersheds and determine areas where mitigation would be most effective, and would allow the City to prioritize the areas in need of mitigation.
Gallo wondered what this policy would do for future development, would it add to the builder’s costs? Davies answered that yes, (she didn’t say of course,) that would add to the costs, but would allow projects that otherwise couldn’t be built.
Councilwoman Olga Diaz added that the primary goal was to treat the runoff water onsite, but if that was not possible then mitigation could be made offsite. Abed immediately observed that it might be more beneficial to water quality to treat offsite runoff than onsite runoff, and he would like to see some flexibility, couldn’t offsite mitigation always be a choice? No, he was told by Davies and Diaz. Davies noting that there would always have to be some onsite steps to reduce runoff. Abed observed, as he had done at previous meetings, that the process was regulation driven not water-quality driven.
Masson concluded that what was needed was to change the Municipal Stormwater Permit. Abed opined that the Regional Water Quality Control Board had been overwhelmed by environmentalist groups, and developers had not been well represented. So, if there had been enough influence by developers, state and federal laws could have been ignored in the design of the permit?
Abed summed up his philosophy with his belief that we should just “let Mother Nature deal with this.” Mother Nature did deal with pollution for most of history—dilution was the solution to pollution. But with a human population over 7 billion, she is vastly outnumbered. Mother Nature’s water in San Diego County would only support a few hundred thousand people—not the 3.26 million here now.