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Environment

San Diego Water Board Criticized For Stormwater Permit Changes

Rose Creek empties into the northern edge of Mission Bay, July 10, 2015.
Nicholas McVicker
Rose Creek empties into the northern edge of Mission Bay, July 10, 2015.

San Diego Water Board Criticized For Stormwater Permit Changes
Southern California municipalities got some help meeting the region's stormwater pollution standards, but it didn't please environmentalists.

A decision Wednesday by San Diego water quality managers to change a sweeping municipal stormwater permit has environmentalists upset.

The environmentalists say they won't be able to hold cities accountable now if the local governments continue to allow stormwater to foul waterways.

The San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board for Region Nine changed the permit developed just two years ago. That measure required cities all over Southern California to find a way to keep polluted runoff out of waterways.

The permit now also prevents citizen groups from suing cities that are failing to meet clean water act standards, as long as the city is working to correct the problem.

Municipalities said they need the protection as they spend $2 billion to bring their stormwater systems in compliance.

San Diego Coastkeeper's Matt O'Malley disagreed. He said the exception keeps water from being cleaned up.

"We have a lot of problems in our streams and our creeks and out in our bay," O'Malley said. "When it rains, we still can't go into the water, surfers are not supposed to go in the water for 72 hours. As far as we're concerned, that's unacceptable."

The board should be strengthening regulations that protect waterways, not weakening them, he said.