Overcoming Significant Obstacles: Technology, Funding, and Community Support – A Case Study in Malibu Creek Watershed
When implementing Green Streets projects to meet TMDL and Municipal Stormwater Permit requirements, the County of Ventura (County) and other municipalities have to overcome a number of obstacles and hurdles. This presentation will describe overcoming technical, financial, and community support obstacles in the small community of County unincorporated area of Oak Park, CA in upper Malibu Creek Watershed (MCW).
The County has a limited jurisdictional area in upper MCW, but Bacteria Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) effective since 2006 has been a major challenge. The County conducted numerous evaluations of compliance options including upper watershed focused analysis and development of the Addendum to the 2007 Malibu Creek Watershed Implementation Plan. It was clear that in order to meet 2012 dry weather final Waste Load Allocations (WLAs), structural Best Management Practices (BMPs) will have to be installed focusing on addressing bacteria sources from the County’s most urbanized area of Oak Park. The landscaping services, street sweeping and other services to the unincorporated area of Oak Park are provided by the Community Service District. Since 2010 the County has been regularly presenting TMDL requirements, stormwater pollution issues, and grant application projects to the community members at the monthly Oak Park Municipal Advisory Council meetings.
As weekly compliance monitoring continued showing exceedances of WLAs, a pilot study was initiated using 5 Filterra units in 2010. Also, County conducted bacteria source identification study and completed on-site infiltration testing to realize technical challenges and limited options available to design effective structural BMPs. The concept design challenges included poorly infiltrating soils, minimal number of catch basins, existing utilities, limited County road right-of-way, minimal elevation drop, and stringent WLAs.
The County submitted several grant applications until funding of $1.4M was awarded under the Proposition 84 Storm Water Grant Program Round 2. The proposed project included two parts: 1) retrofitting existing landscaped medians with biofilters to achieve dry and wet weather bacterial TMDL WLAs for a 20 acre drainage area; and 2) installation of modular wetland devices for dry weather treatment of runoff from 62 acres.
After execution of the grant agreement in August 2014, County worked with a team of consultants to complete the project design. In February 2015, a project presentation was requested by the Oak Park Landscaping Committee. After meeting with this committee, it was clear that the required removal of non-native ornamental trees would be an issue with some residents. Followed by a series of community meetings, the scale of comments and opposition expanded beyond foreseeable expectations. The residents were strongly opposing installation of above ground biofilter treatment system in front of their houses worrying about aesthetics of drought tolerant plants in the medians, their property values being adversely impacted, air quality impact from tree removal, any health impacts due to accumulation of pollutants, and number of other issues indicating confusion between stormwater and sewage. Trying to save the project schedule and maintain funding award, County staff acted quickly and have since implemented a revamped public outreach strategy. In May 2015, a community meeting was held to open up the site selection and treatment strategy for community input. The County had a productive meeting with the key community members during which comments expanded beyond the project scope. Important issues of stormwater funding, individual property owner responsibility, legal requirements, and technical challenges were discussed in detail.
Understanding the importance of stormwater treatment in this community and involvement of its members, the project schedule was postponed to accommodate re-design in response to the community requests.