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Orange County, CA November 5, 2002 Election
Smart Voter

Cleaning our beaches, coastline and rivers

By William R. "Bill" Orton

Candidate for Member; California State Assembly; District 67

This information is provided by the candidate
State action is needed to upgrade our sewers, storm drains and wastewater treatment capability. The issue is simply too large for any ONE city -- or even for ALL the cities -- to handle.
Our ocean and rivers are polluted:

  • Every day, 243 million gallons of partially-treated sewage is pumped into the ocean. It's enough sewage to fill Anaheim Stadium three times every day. And that's what we put into the ocean. There' enough raw sewage floating out there that surfers have given it a name: "sea pickles."

  • All year long, big objects (like refrigerators and sofas) are washed into our storm drains, along with roadway pollutants and chemicals and all sorts of things that shouldn't be allowed to find their way into the storm runoff system. The results are vast floating trash dumps that wind up on our region's beaches and tremendous clean-up bills for coastal communities.

Floating close to shore are vast bacterial plumes that no one can quite explain. People are getting sick, businesses are losing customers and the beaches are being shut down. In 2001, there was a record 51 beach closures in Orange County.

There is no mystery to what steps we must take to solve the "sea pickle" problem.

The county sanitation system is simply not able to keep up with the volume of wastewater that flows everyday through the pipes and to the treatment plants. It backs up. It leaks out. It chokes the system, forcing planned releases. It is simply too much to handle.

We need a major regional partnership, led locally but funded in part by the state.

It is wrong to expect that the cities can continue to bear this burden alone. The state has been robbing the cities for a decade now and shifting greater burdens to local government. Precisely at the moment when much is called for, the cities have less and less.

And even the Orange County Sanitation District, with its $500 million cash reserves, can not be expected to shoulder this burden. Though it could likely afford most of the cost, the Sanitation District should not be milked like a cash cow.

Instead, we need to bring everybody together -- the feds, the state and county, the cities and special districts.... We need a partnership and action, not just words.

To make this happen, I am urging that state lawmakers take over an obscure state agency known as the CALIFORNIA DEVELOPMENT BANK. This CalBank was established (under AB 1495, in 1994) to pay for non-controversial infrastructure, like sewers and storm drains and wastewater treatment plants.

The CalBank is a self-bonding authority. It should be charged with pumping out $10 million a year for ten years, and those funds would be used to leverage other money, from the feds, the county, cities and special districts.

By laying $100 million in state money on the table, lawmakers could generate potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in partnership money to pay for the infrastructural needs of the region.

Without action, there will be merely a continuation of the war of words. My opponent has resorted to a "lawyer full-employment act," in the form of a bill that guarantees not action, but lawsuits, lawsuits, lawsuits. It's time to stop the talk and litigation. It's time to act.

If I am successful in November, I will bring together lawmakers, city officials, sanitation officials, environmentalists, civic activists and ordinary citizens on a nonpartisan basis to create bond measures, governance structures and safeguards that bring money down and make things happen.

The answer lay in clever people who listen, enough sharp pencils, a steady flow of coffee and a whole big pile of money to deal with the issue.

If we DON'T act on the sea pickle problem, then more people will get sick, fewer people will visit our coasts, businesses will continue to shut their doors and our region will come to be known as Sea Pickle City.

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