ORANGE COUNTY — Plagued by reports of local rivers, creeks and beaches being fouled by pollutants, two Orange County supervisors have endorsed a plan to spend $1.1 million to combat urban runoff and protect sensitive watersheds.
For decades, coastal cities have borne the brunt of pollution's effects, including last year's high bacteria levels that closed a popular stretch of Huntington Beach for two months.
During 1999, the Orange County coastline was cited as among the worst in the state, with 502 postings and closures. At the time, the county spent $250,000 to combat runoff.
A county cleanup plan was endorsed as a top strategy by supervisors, but no funding was allocated. At a retreat on Thursday, two county supervisors proposed spending $1.1 million and said they would be able to win a board majority.
Part of the new strategy includes creating the Watershed and Coastal Resources Division, within public works, to handle urban runoff as a regional rather than a coastal or city issue. The new division, headed by Larry Paul, who formerly was manager of coastal facilities, will include a 24-member staff. Coastal facilities include piers and buildings on beaches but not the water itself.
The strategy is part of an overall five-year environmental plan that could cost nearly $72 million from county, state and federal sources.