Marina del Rey pollution cleanup approved over boaters’ objections

A sailboat motors through Marina del Rey Harbor, which is home to more than 4,500 boats where the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Board's is considering a plan that would force boat owners to strip the copper paint off the bottom of their boats at their personal expense.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Board unanimously approved a controversial set of regulations that will launch the first extensive pollution cleanup in Marina del Rey history, county officials said.

At a meeting downtown Thursday night, the local board voted 6 to 0 to approve amendments to a pollution plan that that will force more than 4,000 boaters to strip copper paint off their boats at personal expense. Los Angeles County will also be given the task of cleaning or covering more than 200 acres of toxic sediment.

The water board estimates the cost of paint stripping an average-size boat at $6,000. Dredging the entire marina could cost close to $200 million, while covering the marina with a layer of fresh sediment would cost far less, about $19 million. It is unclear where the funding for either method would come from, but boaters feared that it would somehow be passed along to them.


The plan sparked a revolt from many longtime boaters, who said they resent being forced to take action that they believe won’t solve the marina’s copper problem. So many stakeholders packed the meeting room Thursday that about an hour into public comment, an official announced that there were still 80 requests to speak and the time allotted to each speaker would be reduced, an official at the meeting said.

In a previous interview, Samuel Unger, executive officer of the Regional Water Quality Control Board, Los Angeles called the plan and schedule for implementation developed by regional board staff “scientifically sound, reasonable and cost effective.”

“They will allow both recreational boating and a healthy marine ecosystem in coexist Marina del Rey Harbor,” he said.

But the plan had been formally opposed by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and other county officials. Meeting attendees said that the vast majority of speakers opposed the water board’s plan and several stressed that copper-free paints are ineffective at repelling microorganisms from clinging to boat bottoms.

In his public comment at the meeting, Los Angeles Department of Beaches and Harbors Deputy Director Gary Jones asked the board to delay adoption of the plan for two years so that the county could “conduct the necessary studies that would provide the best path forward for all concerned and reduce copper levels in the marina to acceptable levels.”

“Any cost-of-ownership increases associated with the proposed regulations will be significant to many, many boaters,” he said in his speech, a copy of which was provided to The Times.


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