[KHTS] – Despite an appeal to the United States Supreme Court, Los Angeles County will still be held responsible to clean up pollution in the San Gabriel and Santa Clara Rivers, after the court rejected the appeal on Monday.
The case will now be returned to the District Court in Los Angeles for further proceedings.
The Ninth Circuit Court had earlier decided that the county would not be held liable for violating the 2001 storm water permit, a decision that was reversed by the Supreme Court in January 2013.
The decision specifically concerns liability for violations in the San Gabriel River, said Gary Hildebrand, assistant deputy director for the county Department of Public Works.
Pollution control in the Santa Clara River is now governed under the storm water permit issued by the state Water Resources Control Board in December 2012.
Implementation of the 2012 permit and new pollution cleanup requirements are already well under way in the city of Santa Clarita, Hildebrand said.
The city sent a letter of intent to the Regional Water Quality Control Board, Los Angeles Region on June 28, 2013.
“The City of Santa Clarita submits this Letter of Intent to participate in and share the cost of the development of an Enhanced Watershed Management Program and a Coordinated Integrated Monitoring Program with the Upper Santa Clarita River Watershed stakeholders,” the letter read.
The DPW’s main concern with the court’s rejection of their appeal is that it would tax those residents and businesses using the water and not target those who are causing the pollution.
“This could force municipalities to redirect limited public funds from other critical services to spend on controlling pollution from private and other sources who are the responsible parties,” said Gail Farber, director of the Public Works Department, in a statement.
In June 2013, the county Board of Supervisors considered a proposal to tax residents and businesses for the cost of pollution cleanup.
The Clean Water, Clean Beaches proposal met with fierce opposition in June 2013, with hundreds of complaints at a county board meeting, until it was tabled so that further study could be conducted.
If passed, the proposal would generate more than $200 million for the county.
Supervisor Michael Antonovich expressed his opposition to the proposal at the time.
“I would object on the basis that this is a state responsibility. We can all agree that clean water is a necessity and it’s a state issue,” he said. “Why is this on the back of the local taxpayer?”
Flood Control District officials were asked propose a resolution by March 4 to get a measure together by the June 3 election.
Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky asked Flood Control District staff to prepare a ballot measure for either June or November, which would create funds for the construction of stormwater pollution measures.
For more information about the county’s Clean Water case, click here.