ECA has signed onto an industry letter regarding our significant concerns surrounding the California Water Resources Control Board (Board) revised Statewide Construction Stormwater General Permit.
The current version of the Permit will jeopardize the completion of thousands of projects throughout California including state and local transportation and water utility infrastructure projects, among others.
The letter laid out how our coalition representing infrastructure, labor and local government have been in dialogue with staff members at the Board and the Administration regarding our coalition’s significant concerns surrounding the Permit.
We are disappointed that the newly released proposal fails to address our fundamental concerns and continues to put vital infrastructure, housing, and other economic development projects at grave risk. The revised draft will raise costs by hundreds of millions of dollars, is unworkable, and will not improve water quality. Here are our major concerns with the revised draft:
- The fundamental problem with the permit is it continues to propose the use of Numeric Effluent Limits (NEL) as a means of compliance for certain impaired waterbodies. The thresholds proposed through these NELs are so low that they simply cannot be achieved through any existing Best Management Practices (BMPs) or technologies, leading to permit violations and enforcement that could shut down projects or drive up costs.
- This burdensome Permit would substantially increase costs for public works, infrastructure and private economic development projects by hundreds of millions of dollars. For instance, a Caltrans analysis found that California-Nevada Conference of Operating Engineers complying with this mandate would nearly double compliance costs by 95% – a total cost of between $325 – $348 million every year.
- The Permit proposal creates the opportunity for citizen lawsuits for permit violations of NELs. Contractors and project proponents bear the burden of proving compliance, thus further disincentivizing future projects – especially for small and minority-owned contracting companies without the staff expertise, resources or technology to handle compliance and litigation.
- The Board ignored our coalition’s request to post the guidelines in multiple languages. Having the guidelines available in multiple languages ensures greater access and participation.
We believe there is a better way to protect water quality without stopping projects or making them prohibitively expensive. The Board can adopt a Permit that improves water quality by relying on a BMP approach building off what occurs today and Numeric Action Levels which would require permittees to address problems that arise without fear of incurring fines, penalties, and increased legal exposure. Our recommended approach will create the highest achievable water quality standards for stormwater runoff in the nation and should be adopted in place of this unworkable and flawed approach.
By Ray Baca, Executive Director Email: [email protected]