By Brandon Pensick, ECA President Email: [email protected]

What has been a big pain in your construction projects may become a new business opportunity for contractors who are good at best management practices (BMPs) to manage stormwater runoff on vacant parcels of land. The opportunity is coming courtesy of unlikely sources; regulations from agencies like the State Water Resources Control Board and the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board who have adopted a series of new stormwater rules over the past five years.

One such opportunity surfaced from the Signal Hill Planning Commission, which scheduled a public hearing for Aug. 15 regarding a proposed city ordinance mandating owners of vacant parcels to install sediment-control devices to “reduce water pollution from runoff.”

New Vacant Parcels Rule

Signal Hill and every other community that falls under the most recent Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit, also known as an MS4 permit, will have to cope with these new regulations. That’s almost every city in southern California.

The Planning Commission got an update on the “process” on the vacant parcel ordinance from Scott Charney, Signal Hill’s community development director, who said the city is “obligated to adopt the rule under the MS4 permit.”

Charney said that there would be four public hearings, culminating during the Signal Hill City Council meeting September 26. Like nearly all government public hearings, the result is predetermined, as the ordinance would become legal 30 days later on October 26. The deadline for compliance by property owners would then be after 180 days, on April 24, 2018.

Signal Hill, due to its oil field history and topography, has a big problem with sediment pollution. City staff identified 45 vacant lots covering 143 acres will be forced comply with the ordinance. The city itself owns seven, the city of Long Beach owns one, Signal Hill Petroleum owns 17 and 20 independently owned. Depending on measurements of sediment reduction from the new rule, the city will likely expand the program to other, smaller vacant lots.

Cost estimates for the work range from $22,000 to $158,000 for installation, maintenance, and inspection, depending on the parcel size and BMPs chosen.
Here’s where the ingenuity and experience of contractors with BMPs will have an opportunity to find new work. We’ll be watching the Signal Hill and other cities as this new wave of local stormwater regulation moves through southern California, always looking for opportunities for our members.