County seeks compensation for stormwater efforts 

San Mateo County and its 20 cities are challenging state requirements designed to reduce stormwater pollution, saying the state should have given the local governments funding to comply with the stricter rules.

Local officials say they will have to hire extra staff, buy equipment and take other steps in order to be in line with a regional stormwater permit approved in October 2009 by the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board.

Under the permit, agencies must achieve a 40 percent reduction in trash in storm drains by 2014, using various techniques including identifying trash hot spots and installing trash-capture devices. The permit includes a goal of zero stormwater trash by 2022.

The updated water board rules also include taking steps to reduce pollution from mercury and PCBs and increased monitoring of water quality in the Bay and local waterways.

Peninsula officials say those requirements go beyond what the federal Clean Water Act requires, so they should be considered “unfunded mandates” for which the state should provide reimbursement. The county and cities filed claims in October 2010 with the state’s Commission on State Mandates asking for reimbursements.

Last week, the board of the City/County Association of Governments, which represents all the Peninsula agencies, voted to team with Alameda County to hire Oakland-based law firm Meyers Nave to represent them during the process.

“We would say a lot of these things are very good and very useful to do,” said Richard Napier, the association’s executive director, “but we’ve just had a financial meltdown, one of the worst in 100 years, and cities are on their backs and you have limited funding.”

State water board officials could not be reached for comment.

San Mateo County officials have estimated that the 2009 requirements will cost $6.6 million more in its first year and $8.6 million more in its second year than the previous permit, said Matt Fabry, coordinator of the county’s Storm Water Pollution Prevention Program

While the claims are being reviewed by the Commission on State Mandates, a process that could take years to resolve, cities must comply with the 2009 permit, which also affects Alameda, Santa Clara and Contra Costa counties.

“We want to do the right thing,” San Carlos Public Works Director Robert Weil said. “It’s just a matter of the money.”

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Shaun Bishop

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