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Published September 21st, 2016
Council Acts to Protect the Town's Interests

It is not that the Moraga Town Council does not care about clean water; it does. But the council clearly has difficulty with the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board, which imposes regulations and unfunded mandates on municipalities and private property owners.
In 2009 pollution levels were measured in Bay Area jurisdictions and the water board decided to mandate all agencies, whatever their pollution level, whatever their pollution potential - from rural to industrial - to reduce their trash load in the storm drains by 60 percent as of June 2016. Moraga did not meet the target. The two areas that needed improvement were the two shopping centers.
If Moraga does not reduce the amount of trash in the storm drain by 70 percent as of June 2017, then the mandate will escalate to 100 percent by 2020.
The town may have no choice but to adopt the new regulation to protect the public purse, due to potential fines and third party lawsuits, but it wants to make sure that if the water board mandate is challenged in court, the town will be able to reverse the board's impositions on Moraga's property owners.
At the Sept. 14 council meeting Vice Mayor Dave Trotter expressed his concerns. "(The water board is) not democratically elected, not politically accountable, and ignores what jurisdictions have been telling it for years, including the town of Moraga. We are not happy to be in this boat, but we are in it and we have to protect the town's interest." Other council members agreed.
At this time, three counties - Alameda, Santa Clara and San Mateo - are fighting the water board mandate in court. Kennedy and Associates, the consultant that works with the town on that topic, declared that 21 Bay Area jurisdictions and a state senator addressed the water board to have them amend its mandate, but that no change was made.
Dave Bruzzone, owner of the Moraga Shopping Center, asked the town not to adopt the new rules as formulated by the water board. He opposes this unfunded mandate, which he says will have a huge cost for large property owners. "That board wants to control what every drop of water will look like when it comes out of anybody's property," he said.
The councilmembers said they were sympathetic with the property owner, but that they could not take an unacceptable risk for the town. First, if targets are not met, the water board could fine the town $25,000 for each day out of compliance and $10,000 per theoretical gallon of polluted water. Kennedy and Associates noted that the board has not historically applied such penalties, and a more likely threat was environmental groups suing the town for non-compliance.
The council members agreed that they could not take that risk, but asked the town attorney to add language to the ordinance indicating that if the mandate is modified or called into question, the town could implement the ordinance in compliance with the new requirements. The modified text will come back to council on Sept. 28 for first reading, and on Oct. 24 for adoption. In the meantime, Public Works director Edric Kwan will reach out to property owners with the exact information about their new obligations and possible alternatives for compliance.

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