May 9 – San Diego’s Regional Board Adopts Municipal Stormwater Permit

Coastkeeper relieved “Safe Harbors” clause removed from final approval, holding municipalities accountable for clean water

SAN DIEGO – May 9, 2013 – Yesterday, the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board approved a new five-year municipal stormwater permit for San Diego County, putting into place new standards for regulating urban runoff pollution in the region. San Diego Coastkeeper, an organization that protects and restores fishable, swimmable and drinkable waters, applauds the Regional Board for approving the collaborative approach that includes environmental stakeholders in the process.

“This step in the right direction will get us cleaner water faster and more efficiently—something that life, business and a strong economy in San Diego depend on,” said Coastkeeper Waterkeeper Jill Witkowski. “We’re ecstatic that the Regional Board took a leadership role by putting into place an innovative municipal stormwater permit that we can stand behind.”

Yesterday’s final testimony followed a two-day Regional Board hearing in April that allowed agency staff, stakeholders and the public to provide feedback on the draft permit before the board’s final decision. Responding positively to public comment and requests from Coastkeeper, the Regional Board approved the permit with several amendments, including removing the “Safe Harbors” clause, provision that would excuse municipalities from being held accountable to reach clean water goals.

According to Witkowski, who has participated in the process for more than a year, Coastkeeper supports the permit’s new watershed-based approach to regulating water quality. Because San Diego’s waters do not follow the same boundaries as governmental districts, she says, it’s imperative that all cities with jurisdiction in a specific watershed collaborate to address the water’s most urgent pollution problems. This approach means each watershed will have its own unique plan and goals tailored to the main pollution problems in that area.

Witkowski also says that another key component of the new permit is the Water Quality Improvement Consultation Panel. The Regional Board included this stakeholder oversight process after Coastkeeper and the Building Industry Association of San Diego County requested it in a joint comment letter they submitted earlier this year.

The municipal stormwater permit is immediately effective in San Diego, but parties have a 30-day window to challenge the permit to the State Water Quality Control Board. Yesterday’s permit approval begins a two-year planning process as cities, environmental and technical experts, and the regional board work to craft Water Quality Improvement Plans in each watershed. To learn more about the process, go to San Diego Coastkeeper’s blog.


San Diego Coastkeeper: Founded in 1995, San Diego Coastkeeper protects and restores fishable, swimmable and drinkable waters in San Diego County. For more information, visit San Diego Coastkeeper online at