NEWS WORTH NOTING: Administrative Hearing Office proposed for State Water Board; Public Review of Final South Sacramento Habitat Conservation Plan; Attorney General Becerra and San Diego Water Board file Notice of Intent to Sue over Tijuana River sewage

Administrative Hearing Office Proposed for State Water Resources Control Board

From Best Best & Krieger:

With the release of California’s budget trailer bill came proposed new legislation on Friday that would add an Administrative Hearing Office within the State Water Resources Control Board. If passed, the newly formed Administrative Hearing Office would provide a neutral, fair and efficient forum for adjudications.

The Water Board is tasked with conducting many adjudicatory and quasi-adjudicatory proceedings, which are either run by staff or Water Board members who may not have experience in conducting hearings. This new legislation would provide a new tool for the Water Board to conduct more efficient hearings by qualified hearing officers.

Read more from BB&K here: Administrative Hearing Office Proposed for State Water Resources Control Board

Public Review of Final South Sacramento Habitat Conservation Plan

From the US Fish and Wildlife Service:

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announces the availability of the final Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report for the south Sacramento Habitat Conservation Plan (SSHCP).  The SSHCP balances the need for new urban growth with the need to conserve natural landscapes, aquatic resources, and native wildlife and plant species in Sacramento County.  The final Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report and the final SSHCP were developed by the county of Sacramento; city of Galt; city of Rancho Cordova; Sacramento County Water Agency; and the Southeast Connector Joint Powers Authority, and informed by public comments received on the draft versions of these documents.  Once permitted, the SSHCP will also provide an expedited and more streamlined process for future SSHCP covered activity projects within the plan area that require permits or authorizations under multiple federal, state, and local environmental regulations.

The SSHCP covers 28 native species—11 of which are federally or state listed as threatened or endangered.  The plan area is includes 317,656 acres within south Sacramento County, and includes the city of Galt and most of the city of Rancho Cordova.  The SSHCP establishes a 36,281 acre interconnected, regional-scale preserve system comprised of relatively large, contiguous blocks of natural land covers with high quality species habitat and aquatic resources.

This Notice of Availability opens a 30-day review period of the final Environmental Impact Statement and Environmental Impact Report and final SSHCP that ends June 14, 2018.  Copies of these final documents are available for download at: http://www.southsachcp.com; in-person at the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, 2800 Cottage Way, Room W-2605, Sacramento, CA 95825; or via CD-ROM by sending a request to County Environmental Coordinator, County of Sacramento, Office of Planning and Environmental Review, 827 7th Street, Room 225, Sacramento, CA, 95814; by email at SSHCP@saccounty.net; or by phone at 916- 874–6141.

Conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats is a shared responsibility that benefits threatened and endangered species and the American people.  Federal and state agencies are actively working with local communities to engage conservation partners and the public to identify improved and innovative approaches to conservation and recovery.

The Federal Register notice of availability and the associated documents, including species information, are available at: www.fws.gov/sacramento.

Attorney General Becerra and San Diego Water Board:  We’re Ready to File Suit Over Public Health Threats Posed by Tijuana River Sewage

From the State Water Resources Control Board:

After years of inaction by an international body responsible for protecting residents on both sides of the U.S. – Mexico border, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board today submitted to the United States Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission (the US Commission) a 60-Day Notice of Intent to Sue.

In the Notice, Attorney General Becerra and the San Diego Water Board allege that the US Commission, from 2015 to the present, has allowed more than 12 million gallons of wastewater that flows from the Tijuana River Watershed in Mexico into California to go untreated. This is a violation of the Clean Water Act and the US Commission’s permit under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) issued by the San Diego Water Board. The wastewater often contains excessive levels of pesticides, heavy metals, and bacteria.

In the Notice, Attorney General Becerra and the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board note that the US Commission, the agency responsible for addressing wastewater discharges from the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant (Treatment Plant) and its collection facilities, is not adequately managing transboundary flows. As a result, those flows have impacted human health and the environment – so much so that the US Border Patrol has launched its own investigation for the protection of its agents.

“For far too long, uncontrolled sewage spills have polluted and impaired the Tijuana River Valley and Pacific Ocean. This must stop,” said California Attorney General Becerra. “It’s our duty to protect the public health and natural resources of the people of California. We will do what is necessary to get those responsible to clean up this mess.”

“These polluted flows are a dire threat to both human health and the sensitive wildlife in the estuary and Pacific Ocean near our international border,” said San Diego Water Board’s Executive Officer David Gibson. “Residents of both sides of the border near this waterway and its outfall deserve better and we have an obligation to act. The Regional Board has the same expectations of federal agencies that it has for any agency that it regulates. The US Commission must comply with the Clean Water Act and its NPDES permit and make the necessary infrastructure improvements to its facilities to prevent contaminated flows from entering the United States.”

“The coastal communities of San Diego County depend on clean, healthy watersheds and beaches – recreationally, economically, and for our rich environmental and biological tapestry. In recent decades, the federal government has turned a blind eye toward the sewage, trash, and debris flowing across the border from Mexico,” said Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins. “I applaud the strong leadership taken by Attorney General Becerra, the Regional Water Quality Control Board, and the coastal residents and local governments that have long been calling for action.”

“The federal government has failed repeatedly to act on this serious contamination issue that has plagued the Tijuana River Valley, residents, businesses and tourism in the San Diego region for 30 years,” said Senator Ben Hueso. “Californians cannot afford to wait another three decades for these issues to be resolved. I thank the Attorney General and the San Diego Water Board for taking this important first step toward recourse through the judicial system.”

“My constituents have dealt with this large-scale environmental disaster for far too long. Since the U.S. International Boundary and Water Commission seems uninterested in carrying out its legal duties to treat the wastewater flowing into the United States, we must hold them accountable,” said Assemblymember Todd Gloria. “I applaud and am proud to stand with Attorney General Becerra and the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board in support of this action, as well as the Notice of Intent filed by the City of Imperial Beach. It is time for the pollution in the Tijuana River Valley to be stopped once and for all and for all stakeholders to work together to restore the quality-of-life for the region.”

“We need the US Commission to do their part. It’s past time,” said Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher. “Our residents deserve better than the constant spillage of sewage that ends up polluting our community parks, beaches and coast.”

The US Commission has a series of canyon collectors designed to intercept and divert waste for treatment at the Treatment Plant.  When those canyon collectors overflow as a result of improper operation and maintenance, untreated and often hazardous waste – including sewage, trash, sediment, and severely polluted runoff – ends up in creeks, streams and other water bodies in the United States. The results are polluted wetlands and mandatory closures of local beaches due to the threat of bacteria that causes illness in those who are exposed to the waters. In the last decade, due to the contaminated wastewater, coastal cities in California have imposed 1,600 beach closures.

A copy of the 60-Day Notice of Intent to Sue is available here. The San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board has a separate webpage for information on sewage pollution in the Tijuana River Watershed.

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About News Worth Noting:  News Worth Noting is a collection of press releases, media statements, and other materials produced by federal, state, and local government agencies, water agencies, and academic institutions, as well as non-profit and advocacy organizations.  News Worth Noting also includes relevant legislator statements and environmental policy and legal analyses that are publicly released by law firms.  If your agency or organization has an item you would like included here, please email it to Maven.

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