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Water Agency Urged to Fight Crystal Cove Runoff


A housing project is not the only source of illegal discharges into the fragile marine ecosystem off Crystal Cove State Park, a regional water agency said Tuesday: an elementary school, a road and historic cottages also are culprits.

The staff of the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board recommended that the board issue a cease-and-desist order against the Irvine Co., Caltrans, the state Department of Parks and Recreation and the Laguna Beach Unified School District.

The ocean off Crystal Cove, a dolphin birthing ground north of Laguna Beach, is recognized by the state as one of 34 areas of biological significance and receives special protection under the state's Ocean Plan. Tuesday's draft order is the first time a regional board has taken on storm water discharges into those ecosystems.

The state Department of Parks and Recreation owns beach frontage that houses 46 cottages, some dating back 80 years, that use septic tanks that could be sending raw waste into the ocean. The department also owns parking lots, showers and facilities that generate discharges that would have to be eliminated by late 2002.

Putting the cottages on a municipal sewer service would cost up to $6 million, a move planned when the department goes forward with plans to build a resort there. But that project has yet to clear required public reviews.

Laura Davick, president of Alliance to Rescue Crystal Cove and a resident of one of the historic cottages, said she is meeting with state parks officials Monday to discuss alternatives, such as building a local treatment plant.

The draft order also would require Caltrans to stop Pacific Coast Highway runoff from reaching the ocean, and it would require Laguna Beach Unified's El Morro Elementary School to stop storm water from draining to Pacific Coast Highway and from there to the ocean.

The Irvine Co. site drained into two pipes and a culvert that sent construction runoff into Los Trancos and Muddy Canyon creeks, which flow across the state beach and into the ocean. The company has agreed to comply with the order, which the board could adopt at its Nov. 16 meeting in Irvine.

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