December 18 – Environmentalists Submit Official Request to State Water Board to Review San Diego’s Stormwater Permit

Watchdogs say an unlawful change made on November 18 makes the permit inadequate to protect region’s water quality

(San Diego, CA) – December 18, 2015 – Yesterday, San Diego Coastkeeper and Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation (CERF) filed a petition to the California State Water Resources Control Board (State Board) requesting changes to San Diego’s stormwater permit. On November 18, the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Board) approved an amendment to the municipal stormwater permit that weakens a permit holder’s accountability for achieving pollution reduction and clean water. Coastkeeper and CERF, which rely on the now-weakened provision to fight pollution threatening the region’s quality of life, say the permit is both unlawful and inadequate to protect the region’s water or public health.

“The Regional Board’s action last month was an unfortunate step backwards in efforts to improve water quality,” said Matt O’Malley, Waterkeeper and Legal & Policy Director for Coastkeeper. “We’re asking the State Board to overturn the unlawful provisions to ensure our members and local citizens can access clean water and maintain the San Diego way of life that we love.”

Polluted runoff is San Diego County’s number one water quality problem; it’s what causes the County Department of Environmental Health to issue 72-hour polluted beach advisories when it rains and what causes our local streams and rivers to receive poor health ratings. To address that issue, the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems permit (stormwater permit) covers cities in San Diego, along with San Diego County, the port, the airport, and portions of South Orange County and Riverside County. It requires permittees within these areas to create and implement plans to prevent pollution in urban runoff and stormwater from reaching our waters. The plans identify priority pollution conditions, strategies to address those problems, numeric goals, and timelines to achieve those goals.

But, on November 18, the Regional Board approved an amendment known as a “Safe Harbor,” that gives permit holders a pass from accountability for water quality protection if they have a plan to eventually reduce pollution into our waters. They get this “pass” from the moment their plan is approved, and it continues indefinitely as long as they keep trying to do better, even if they continue failing to meet water quality standards.

“We don’t want to give water polluters a pass just for saying they will prevent pollution from reaching San Diego’s waters–we want to reward actual results,” says Livia Borak, attorney with CERF. “Our petition to the State Board asks the governing agency to overturn this illogical and unlawful provision.”

San Diego Coastkeeper and CERF filed their petition to the State Water Resources Control Board yesterday.


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

Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation
CERF is a nonprofit environmental organization established to aggressively advocate, including through litigation, for the protection and enhancement of coastal natural resources and the quality of life for coastal residents.