• ASBS projects back on track

    by Cameron Douglas

    Sewers, rainwater runoff, and the letters A-S-B-S (Area of Special Biological Significance) are hot topics around Pacific Grove, as solutions are being found to keep the town, the state, and our ocean happy.

    Flashback to March 2012. The State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) adopted the “General Exception and Special Protections for the California Ocean Plan Waste Discharge Prohibition for Storm Water and Nonpoint Source Discharges” into the ASBS. Eleven months later, the SWRCB added the NPDES MS4 Phase 2 Storm Water Permit, which incorporates the ASBS Special Protections Resolution 2012-0012.

    Because of all this, the city’s watershed discharges into the Pacific Grove ASBS are subject to a number of regulatory mandates, including:

    • Eliminating non-storm water urban runoff into the ASBS.
    • Ensuring that wet weather flows do not alter “natural water quality.”
    • Conducting ocean retrieving water monitoring to ensure marine life and other beneficial uses are protected.
    • Adopting Best Management Practices to reduce pollutants, debris, and larger particle discharges into the ASBS.
    • Reducing pollutant loads by 90 percent during wet weather if natural water quality is found to be degraded by these discharges.
    • Eliminating all trash from outfalls and discharges.

    The SWRCB awarded Pacific Grove a $2.4 million Proposition 84 ASBS grant to assist the city in coming into compliance with the strict state regulations. The grant process is complex, and calls for a commitment to a specific plan.

    On February 12, 2013 a group of interested citizens met for the purpose of discussing a wide range of ideas on how to go about treating rainwater runoff through Greenwood Park. At length they formed a cohesive plan that was sent on as a recommendation to city council. Part of the plan called for construction of a natural wetland at Greenwood for the purpose of filtering runoff before it reaches the bay. Based on the group’s input, council developed a preferred plan and directed city staff to proceed.

    To assuage any public concerns, a scoping meeting for the project was held on March 28. At that meeting, neighbors in the Greenwood Park area expressed passionate opposition to the city’s plan for a wetland, citing concerns over mosquitoes and maintenance. The city halted all work on the project the following day.

    Since the planned wetland had been a key part of the original grant proposal, a request for redirect of funds would be necessary.

    In May, the city council directed staff to submit a grant deviation request to the SWRCB. New options were carefully examined. Responding to community concern over Pacific Grove’s aging sewers as a likely cause of pollution, city staff looked at solving specific sewer problems as a way to effectively reduce contamination in the ASBS.

    The 283-acre Greenwood Gulch accounts for a quarter of Pacific Grove’s total watershed into the ASBS. City staff identifies it as priority drainage, based on water quality monitoring at the Greenwood Park outfall. Pollutants of concern there include human fecal indicator bacteria and trash. Several locations along this drainage have sanitary and storm sewers running in close proximity beneath private properties. These pipes are very old. This is where things got interesting.
    Human-sourced bacteria were detected passing through storm drains in the area between Sinex and Junipero, from Carmel Avenue to 14th Street. Working with Neill Engineers, city staff conducted a series of tests to evaluate the sewers and storm drains in that area. While the large 48-inch pipes were in good condition, the smaller 18-inch pipes had suffered cracks and fractures. Sewer lines running adjacent to these pipes were found to be defective as well, resulting in cross-contamination of the storm drains. The engineers and city staff began working out solutions focused on proactive sewer work instead of only adding reactive treatment methods.

    In September, city staff members met with representatives for the State Water Board. Although formal approval is still pending, the Water Board officials indicated their support for the suggested work and a willingness to approve the grant deviation request. In addition, they praised the city for pursuing projects aimed at prevention instead of only treatment.

    drainCMYKTwo community meetings were then held: one on October 3 and the other on October 7, to refine and finalize the latest project proposal. Environmental Programs Manager Sarah Hardgrave described the meetings as “informed and helpful discussion.”
    At the regular City Council meeting on October 16, Hardgrave presented her recommendations:

    1. Receive an updated report on the status of the Proposition 84 ASBS grant based on community meetings held since the council considered the item on Sept. 18.

    2. Direct Staff to finalize a “deviation request” to the SWRCB, changing the grant scope to allocate up to $1.1 million in grant funds for the following storm drain system improvements:

    a. Abandon the 18-inch storm drain beneath private properties       between Sinex and Gibson and fill with slurry seal.

    b. Reconstruct the 24-inch storm drain line under 14th Street between Gibson and Junipero.

    c. Install one hydrodynamic trash separator at the southern end of Greenwood Park, and,

    d. Install another at either Junipero and 14th or Pine Avenue and 15th Street as part of an existing project.

    3. Approve up to $0.7 million in city-funded sewer improvements, to be implemented concurrently with the grant funded storm water projects:

    a. Construct 1,340 linear feet of new 8-inch diameter sewer main in the public right-of-way.

    b. Abandon the existing 6-inch main under private properties on Sinex and Gibson.

    c. Construct/reconstruct 12 sanitary sewer manholes.

    d. Reconnect 13 sanitary sewer service laterals.

    e. Street overlay on 14th Street and alley, plus construction of new curb ramps.

    bridge 2012CMYKWhen this plan was presented to the council, no one from the public had comment on the matter — presumably due to Hardgrave’s efforts to resolve any issues — and the motion to accept her recommendations carried unanimously. “Thank you for taking a shot at probably one of our record complex recommendations,” said Mayor Kampe. City Manager Tom Frutchey added his praise for Hardgrave’s “effort to ensure the neighbors’ concerns were addressed successfully.”

    When it’s all finished, this chapter in the town’s development may well go down in local history as a Project of Special Sewer Significance.
    Another scoping meeting was scheduled for Thursday, October 24.
    Send comments and suggestions for future Green Pages to: cameron@cedarstreettimes.com/

    posted to Cedar Street Times on October 24, 2013

    Topics: Green

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