Summary of Federal and State Water Policies
Below is a brief summary of some federal and state watershed policies that both inform and interact with the Coastal Watershed Council. We hope these policies provide excellent background information for the public to understand our mission.
Federal Clean Water Act: This important act was established in 1972, and amended in 1977. It regulates the discharge of pollutants in the water, and gives the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) the authority to implement pollution control programs such as setting wastewater policies for industry and continued requirements to set water quality standards for all contaminants on surface water quality. The act also makes it unlawful for any person to discharge pollutants into the water supply from any point pollution source (a source that is a single identifiable water or thermal pollution) unless they have the proper permits under the established provisions. This act also funds construction of sewage treatment plants and recognizes the need for planning to address the threats posed by non point source pollution (pollution that comes from diffuse sources such as animal feces, and fertilizers that deposit into water sources) 1.
Below is one of the most important sections of the Federal Clean Water Act that directly links to the purpose of the Coastal Watershed Council.
Section 303(d): Requires states to identify water bodies that do not meet water quality objectives and are not supporting their general use. Every two years, each state must submit an updated list called the 303 (d) list to the U.S. EPA, that also names the pollutant or stressor causing the impairment, and establishes the priority for a control plan to address the impairment. The list also identifies water bodies where a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) (which is the total allowable pollutant load to receiving water that will violate state water quality standards) that has been approved by U.S. EPA and implementation is available, but water quality standards are not yet met 1. The second component of the 303(d) list serves water bodies where the water quality problem is being addressed by an action other than a TMDL and water quality standards are also not yet met.2
Endangered Species Act (ESA): In 1972 Congress recognized that society needs to change the ways in which humans utilize and, too often, degrade finite natural resources. Congress passed the Endangered Species Act, a piece of legislation that has provided the basis for ecosystem and species protection for the United States of America. Although it is a complicated stature in practice, the purposes are clear: to provide for the conservation and recovery of threatened and endangered species and the ecosystem upon which they depend.
The ESA requires the federal government to establish protective regulations that apply to a threatened or endangered species. These regulations are often referred to as the “4(d) rules” and provide protection for the conservation of the species. The regulations prohibit the “take” of any threatened or endangered species through harming or killing or through destruction or modification of the species’ habitat. The 4(d) rules also allow certain kinds of activities that contribute to the long-term survival and recovery of listed species.
For example, the National Marine and Fisheries Services (NMFS) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS), amongst other federal agencies, develop and implement rules to protect and restore the coho salmon and steelhead trout, along with other species, under the ESA.. These regulations will apply not only to public entities, but will also apply to private entities and their activities. Examples of activities which may be regulated under the new rules include water diversions, wastewater discharges, and erosion and sediment controls. Currently, there are over 1,925 endangered species, and of these, 1,350 are found in part or entirely in the U.S. and it’s waters 3. National Marine and Fisheries Homepage
West Coast Governors’ Agreement for Ocean Health: The Governors of Washington, Oregon, and California have joined together by creating an agreement to protect the health of the West Coast’s ocean and coastal ecosystems and the economies that depend on them. They believe issues will be more effectively addressed through the collective effort of all three states. This agreement targets seven priority areas, which include:
- Clean coastal water and beaches
- Healthy oceans and coastal habitats
- Effective implementation of ecosystem and watershed-based management programs
- The reduction of impacts due to offshore development
- An expansion of ocean and coastal scientific research and monitoring
- Increasing ocean awareness and literacy in the west coast region, and lastly
- Creating a more sustainable economic development of coastal communities.
In addition to the above seven target areas, this agreement also defines four actions for the states to jointly undertake immediately. These actions focus on increased funding for nonpoint source pollution control programs, the prohibition of new offshore oil and gas leasing, development and production, the development of a marine research plan for the West Coast region, and federal technical support for addressing issues of regional significance. The states have acted on each of these initial directives, and are presently continuing to participate in the identification and prioritization of regional research needs in cooperation with the four Sea Grant programs. Sea Grant programs are a national program under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in conjunction with various universities that conduct scientific research, education programs and extension programs to enhance the use and conservation of coastal marine resources. The West Coast Governors’ Agreement hopes that other coastal communities in other states and around the world will see this agreement as a model for their own communities, and find more available funding for state and federal ocean and coastal management. This agreement has just been passed, and the release of the final plan will be released in mid 2008 4.
California State Water Policies:
California Ocean Protection Act (COPA): Created in 1972, this is the primary law that governs the decisions of the Coastal Commission. COPA outlines, among other things, standards for development within the Coastal Zone, as well as encouraging local governments to develop protected areas and increase the diversity and protection of already conserved lands such as bays, wetlands, and estuaries . This will be accomplished by continuous water monitoring and necessary environmental adjustments, while still supporting ocean dependent economic activities. Under this plan several other policies have been enacted, among them California’s Ocean Protection Council, California’s Ocean Currents Monitoring System, and California’s Marine Life Protection Act 5 .
Assembly Bill (AB)-411: This bill is part of the coastal related legislation, which requires the State Department of Health Services to adopt regulations requiring the testing of all beaches for total coliform, fecal coliform, enterococci, and streptococci bacteria. This policy establishes protective minimum standards for the location of monitoring sites and monitoring frequency. It requires postings in clearly visible points along affected beaches whenever state standards are violated, and requires that beaches be tested for total coliform, fecal coliform, enterococci, and streptococci bacteria and chemical pollutants including PCBs, PAHs, and mercury on a weekly basis from April 1 to October 31, of each year 6.
Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act: Created in 1969, and updated in 2007, this is by far one of the most important acts for water protection in California. This act establishes State Water Resource Control Board (SWRCB) and each Regional Water Quality Control Board as the principal state agency for having primary responsibility in controlling water quality in California by organizing water quality control plans. There are nine Regional Water Quality Control Boards in California (see diagram on website). Today the five-member State Water Board allocates water rights, adjudicates water right disputes, develops statewide water protection plans, establishes water quality standards, and guides the nine Regional Water Quality Control Boards located in the major watersheds of the state. The Regional Boards, each comprised of nine members, serve as the frontline for state and federal water pollution control efforts. A Basin Plan tailored to its unique watershed and providing scientific and regulatory basis for each Regional Board’s water protection efforts guides each Board. These basin plans include beneficial uses of the watershed, economic uses of the water, monitoring water quality, the needs to develop housing in the region, and wastewater uses. These also include the development and uses of recycled water, as well notification requirements for oil and petroleum discharges, solid waste disposal sites, and general waste discharge. This act lists the notification requirements if waste is leaked from source and the penalties, waivers, and criteria of what cleanup steps need to occur 7 .
Proposition 50: This proposition for the State of California in 2002, authorizes $3,400,000,000 in general obligation bonds to be repaid from the state’s General Fund, to fund a variety of water projects including: specified CALFED Bay-Delta Program projects including urban and agricultural water use efficiency projects; grants and loans to reduce Colorado River water use; purchasing, protecting and restoring coastal wetlands near urban areas; competitive grants for water management and water quality improvement projects; development of river parkways; improved security for state, local and regional water systems; and grants for desalination and drinking water disinfecting projects.
Approximately four hundred and twelve million dollars in IRWM Grants are available, which are split between the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) and the Department of Water Resources (DWR). Approximately one hundred and eighty three million dollars is available from the State Water Board’s funding allocation to qualified recipeints1.
In March 2007, the State Water Board adopted Resolution No. 2007-0011 under Proposition 50 that approved additional IRWM Implementation Grant Funding List totaling $75,000,000 that included the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County in the amount of $12,500, 000. The Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County has since requested the State Water Board’s approval to substitute a subsidiary of the Community Foundation as Grantee under the Grant. The subsidiary is a qualified 501(c) (3) non-profit organization, and is called the Regional Water Management Foundation, a Subsidiary of the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County. This has been done to preserve the fiscal integrity of the Community Foundation by creating a separate legal entity to receive and administer the Grant funds 8.
California Nonpoint Source Pollution Act: Enacted in 1998 by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S, EPA) and the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA). This established the California Nonpoint Source Pollution Control Program, which controls and manages a range of nonpoint source pollution such as agriculture, hydromodifications, urban run off and forestry. The California Nonpoint Source Pollution Control Program has establishe a Program Plan that identifies nonpoint source management measures to be implemented by 2013. It is a statewide program that represents a commitment by the State to expand its efforts over the next 13 years to reduce and prevent nonpoint source pollution. The Program Plan includes the following key elements:
- Adoption of 61 nonpoint source management measures (MMs).
- A commitment to implement all of the MMs by 2013.
- A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the California Coastal Commission and the State Water Resources Control Board regarding their commitment to serve as lead agencies for implementation of the Program Plan.
- A schedule to implement targeted MMs to be developed in three consecutive five-year plans.
- Tracking and evaluating program effectiveness through biennial and five-year evaluations. Biennial evaluations will focus on assessing continuing implementation of MMs and activities identified in the five-year plans. At the end of each five-year period, the State will conduct and evaluation of how well performance measures and implementation goals identified in the five-year plans have been met, and assess mechanisms, including rulemaking, to improve program implementation.
- A description of the authority of the Coastal Commission, via the Coastal Act, and the State and Regional Boards, via the Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act (Porter-Cologne), to implement the program throughout the State.
- Incorporation of additional State authorities into the Program Plan through MOUs and Management Agency Agreements ( MAAs).
As a result of these efforts, California will receive $10.6 million this year to implement the nonpoint source program. This includes $5.2 million of new funds that the Clean Water Action Plan (February 1998) has earmarked for those States that have upgraded their nonpoint source programs 9.
Watershed Policies for Santa Cruz County:
Stormwater Ordinance: The City of Santa Cruz adopted a Stormwater Ordinance establishing standards for keeping stormwater clean. Studies indicate that stormwater runoff is a major contributor of pollutants to the San Lorenzo River and Monterey Bay. In addition to pollution control requirements, the City of Santa Cruz faces significant flood control commitments for the San Lorenzo River Flood Control Project. The City is required to initiate programs that monitor stormwater for pollutants, improve stormwater system maintenance, and provide educational activities to individuals, businesses and agencies that impact stormwater. The City of Santa Cruz adopted a Stormwater Ordinance to establish standards for keeping stormwater clean. Best management practices (BMP, which are effective methods to prevent or reduce the movement of sediment, nutrients, pesticides and other pollutants from the land to surface or ground water) for specific areas such as retail, industrial, and construction activities are being developed and implemented. In combination, these programs will reduce stormwater pollution. These activities support the goal of the City to minimize the pollutants from the City storm drain system entering Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The City created the Stormwater Management Utility and established utility fees to pay for the City’s share of costs for stormwater pollution prevention and flood control projects. Stormwater related pollution abatement programs are estimated to cost around $200,000 per year on an ongoing basis 10.
1. California Environmental Protection Agency-Central Coast Regional Water Quality Board. “303(d) List”. September 21 st, 2007. Website attained October 26 th, 2007 from http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/centralcoast/TMDL/303dList.htm.
2. Watershed Information Network.(n.d.). “Know Your Watershed.” Website attained December 7 th, 2007 from http://www.ctic.purdue.edu/KYW/tmdl/tmdlhome.html
3. Coastal Watershed Council. “To Restore the Salmon: It Will Take All of Our Communities Working Together.” 2001.
4. West Coast Governors’ Agreement on Ocean Health: California, Oregon, Washington. “Draft Action Plan”. Febuary, 15th, 2008. www.westcoastoceans.gov.
5. California Ocean Protection Act. “Senate Bills 1318 and 1319. ( Burton)”. (n.d) Retrieved March 8 th, 2007 from: http://www.e2.org/ext/document.jsp?docId=4641.
6. California Coastal Commission. “Coastal Related Legislation”. (n.d) Website attained on October 26 th, 2007 from http://www.coastal.ca.gov/leginfo/1997/sum3.html.
7. State Water Resource Control Board. “Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act.” Amended Jan 1 st, 2007. http://www.swrcb.ca.gov/water_laws/docs/portercologne.pdf
8. State Water Resources Control Board. Board Meeting Session-Division of Financial Assistance. October 2, 2007. Website attained on October 26 th,. 2007 from: http://sccounty01.co.santacruz.ca.us/BDS/GovStream/BDSvData/non_legacy/Minutes/2004/20041207/PDF/025.pdf
9. “ California Coastal Nonpoint Program.” California Coastal Commission Regulations. July 2000. http://coastalmanagement.noaa.gov/nonpoint/docs/6217ca_fnl.pdf
10. Santa Cruz City Public Works Department. (n.d) “Stormwater Management Utility.” http://www.ci.santa-cruz.ca.us/pw/
Related sites to the Nonpoint Pollution Plan:
Other Watershed Related Resources and Internet Sites:
For more information about the history of water policy in California, visit:
History of The State Water Resource County Control Board