MALIBU ¬ó The City Council will vote Monday whether to pay $113,000 for a biofiltration project on Broad Beach.

The project is the first of what is expected to be more than $500,000 in unbudgeted expenditures on storm drain improvements the council agreed to in April to settle a costly lawsuit with environmental organizations Santa Monica Baykeeper and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

Mayor Pro Tem Lou La Monte and Councilmember John Sibert voted swiftly last Monday at a meeting of the Administration and Finance Subcommittee to recommend the council approve the project design with money from City Hall’s reserve fund.

City Manager Jim Thorsen’s office will have to go back to the Administration and Finance Subcommittee and City Council at a later date to seek funding for an estimated $400,000 more in construction fees, according to a city staff report.

“We knew that these additional costs were forthcoming and [construction] was part of the expected additional costs to the city,” Thorsen said.

Santa Monica Baykeeper and the NRDC sued the city in 2008 in an effort to force the city to implement better pollution controls over its stormwater runoff, particularly near public beaches and the Malibu Creek and Malibu Lagoon. In August 2010, a federal district court found the city liable for violating the federal Clean Water Act for discharging polluted runoff to a coastal preserve known as an Area of Special Biological Significance (ASBS) that extends from Latigo Point to the Ventura County line.

For years city officials met with the nonprofits to reach some kind of settlement or come up with a solution for managing stormwater runoff they would find acceptable.

The two sides did finally settle in April. In addition to paying $750,000 of the two organizations’ legal fees, the city pledged to outfit 17 storm drains in the Civic Center and the ASBS with new technology to curb harmful discharges into Malibu Creek, Malibu Lagoon and the nearshore ocean.

City Attorney Christi Hogin said at the time that the city must outfit the drains within four to six years at an expected cost of $5.6 million. Hogin said $2.9 million of that total would be funded through grants to upgrade 11 storm drains on Wildlife Road and Broad Beach Road.

Broad Beach is currently equipped with eight biofiltration improvement sites, which divert storm drain and dry-weather runoff from reaching environmentally protected areas along the beach.

Since the agreement was reached after the first eight bond-funded improvement sites were implemented at Broad Beach last year, additional sites are no longer eligible for bond money. The April settlement forces the city to pay out of its reserve funding. The agreement also requires the design and installment of water quality monitoring equipment at six sites along Broad Beach Road.

If approved, the preliminary $113,000 would pay solely for the design of the project. After receiving a design from private consultants, the city would send out a bid for construction proposals. All together, the design and construction for the Broad Beach portion could cost the city up to $513,000 in reserve money.

Sibert and La Monte also voted at the meeting to recommend the City Council provide $110,000 for a regional water quality monitoring program along the 11.7 miles of environmentally protected coastline that form the ASBS and which includes Broad Beach.

Sibert and La Monte recommended the disbursal of funds for the same regional water quality monitoring program that Malibu participated in 2008. Participating in the state’s regional program costs the city less than implementing an individual program, according to a staff report.

The regional program also requires the city to do less storm water sampling along the coast.

Malibu must notify the state by Aug. 1 on whether the city will participate in the regional program.

If the City Council approves both items recommended by the subcommittee, Malibu’s general fund undesignated reserve would decrease from $9.69 million to $9.47 million.

This article first appeared in the Malibu Times.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.