Jul 30, 2014

Malibu Settles Lawsuit Over Stormwater

Outgoing City Councilman Jefferson Wagner, who applauded the settlement with the Santa Monica Baykeeper and the Natural Resources Defense Council, believes the lawsuit was diverting needed resources from the city's clean water programs.

Malibu Settles Lawsuit Over Stormwater

The City of Malibu reached a settlement in a lawsuit with two environmental groups over the city's stormwater management on Friday.

In the lawsuit, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Santa Monica Baykeeper alleged the city had violated the Clean Water Act.

Under the settlement, the city will pay $750,000 in legal fees, make improvements on 17 drains, and allocate $250,000 toward the city's Ocean Health Water Assessment program, which will create water quality monitoring along Malibu's shoreline, according to City Attorney Christi Hogin.

Part of Malibu's coastline is known as an Area of Special Biological Significance (ASBS), and a federal district court found the city liable in 2010 for discharging polluted runoff. The ASBS runs from Latigo Point to the Ventura County line.

Funding has already been allocated for 11 of the drains, she said. The total cost of the retrofits is $5.6 million.

"The city is happy about the settlement, primarily because it puts an end to the adversary relationship that comes with litigation and it allows us to bring the NRDC and the Santa Monica Baykeeper onto the city's team in our ongoing effort to clean the water," Hogin told Patch.

Mayor Laura Zahn Rosenthal said the city is pleased to have a resolution in the case.

"It was filed in 2008, before the city's state-of-the-art stormwater treatment facility was fully on-line and before Legacy Park - the city's award-winning water cleaning machine - was built," Mayor Laura Zahn Rosenthal said in a statement.

Rosenthal added that the city is looking forward to working with NRDC and the Baykeeper in the future.

Malibu will also coordinate with the NRDC and the Santa Monica Baykeeper to control the discharge of animal waste from Serra Canyon to Malibu Creek and the Malibu Lagoon.

In a press release issued by both environmental groups, NRDC Senior Attorney Steve Fleischli also commended the settlement. 

"By curbing the biggest sources of pollution in the Santa Monica Bay, we can keep trips to Malibu beaches carefree, and prevent people from getting sick when they go in the ocean,” Fleischli said.

Councilman John Sibert, who was on a council subcommittee that worked on the settlement, said the resolution of the reflects on the city.

"Having science-based solutions for improving water quality is the cornerstone for the City's clean water programs. This settlement reflects that principle and builds on the City's innovative clean water program," Sibert said in a statement.

Outgoing City Councilman Jefferson Wagner added that the lawsuit was diverting resources from the city's clean water programs.

"Malibu has been California's water quality leader and strongest clean water advocate for many years. NRDC and the Baykeeper are important partners to have in that effort," Wagner said.

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