Newport to monitor urban runoff north of Crystal Cove

NEWPORT BEACH — The Irvine Co. was responsible for monitoring urban runoff into a protected stretch of the Pacific north of Crystal Cove, until the Newport Beach City Council voted last week for the city to assume the responsibility.

The change will cost the city $10,000 per year, but officials say it partly compensates the Irvine Co. for installing and maintaining a nearby public wastewater pump station.

For decades, the Irvine Co. and local governments have been working out water quality protections between Corona del Mar and Laguna Beach. Environmentalists say that as long as the bacteria levels are being watched, it doesn't matter who pays for the tests.

City officials were willing to take on the job, as they were already monitoring pollution for nearby homeowners.

"I think the consistency is important, and as many property owners that can ride the city's coattails I think is good," Councilwoman Leslie Daigle said at the Jan. 24 council meeting.

State regulators require that property owners or government agencies test water flowing from storm drains, and prevent any discharges that would harm wildlife or humans swimming near the shore.

City officials already pay for a consultant to monitor the drains near Buck Gully and Morning Canyon.

The watershed now covered by the city includes the gated Pelican Point community at the north end of Crystal Cove State Park; portions of the Pelican Hill Golf Course; portions of the Cameo Highlands neighborhood; and the adjacent stretch of East Coast Highway.

This area's excess irrigation water, and other runoff, is pumped into the city's sewer system through a station built and maintained by Irvine Co. It cost about $1 million to build, and the company pays $90,000 per year to maintain the facility, according to Irvine Co. Senior Vice President Dan Miller.

The company wasn't obligated to build the station, according to Garry W. Brown, executive director of Orange County Coastkeeper. His environmental group has advocated for strict water quality protections between Newport Beach and Laguna Beach.

"It's probably good to have one consultant to do [the testing]," Brown said. "We just want to make sure that someone's paying."

Twitter: @mreicher

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