Supervisors plug $1.2 Million gap for storm water Regional Water Quality Board Permit

By Daniel Borsuk

To address rising costs of meeting strict environmental water quality regulations, Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors on Election Day, Tuesday, unanimously approved a way to pay for a $5 million permit with the Regional Water Conservation District.

With scant discussion from supervisors and zero comments from the public, supervisors approved Contra Costa County Flood Control & Water Conservation District Division Manager Tim Jensen’s recommendation to pay for the five-year permit through service reductions.

Some jurisdictions, like San Diego and Santa Clara counties most notably have refused to pay rising storm water permit fees, Jensen said.

Jensen informed supervisors the county has about $3.2 million in funds set aside for the RWCD permit, but the there are no other funds available from the County’s General Fund to fill in a $1.2 million deficit for the certificate.

Jensen said his staff identified $510,000 of road funds and $75,000 of flood control funds that could be spent for program activities but, noted the road funds might be unavailable should state Proposition 6, the State Gas Tax measure wins in Tuesday’s election.  A Proposition 6 victory would deliver a financial blow to the county’s road fund. (NOTE: Prop. 6 failed)

The county flood control manager presented to supervisors a four-point service reduction plan that would help the county plug up the $1.2 million deficit to cover the RWCD permit.  The plan consists of:

  • Street Sweeping – Transfer street sweeping to the Road Fund even though this might not materialize if Proposition 6, the state gas tax measure, won at Tuesday’s election.
  • Inspections – Reduce inspections by 50 percent.
  • Outreach – Reduce the Public Information and Participation Program by 50 percent.
  • Calendar – Eliminate the annual calendar.

County Agricultural Crop Production Down 6 Percent

In other business, supervisors approved, on consent, the county’s 2017 Agricultural Crop Report that showed a 6% decline in gross value of agricultural crops.  During that year, agricultural crop gross value was $120,441,000, a decline of $7. 6 million from 2016, Humberto Izquierdo, Contra Costa County Agricultural Commissioner Sealer of Weights and Measures wrote in his report to the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors.

Izquierdo’s report cited how high labor costs and an overall shortage of farm workers have been key factors behind the longstanding decline in the county’s asparagus industry.  Today there is only one asparagus grower in the county who sells strictly at the Certified Farmers’ Markets.  The total acreage in asparagus production has decreased to less than 50 acres.  “The loss of (a 25% tariff) protection, combined with rising labor costs, have resulted in an increase in imported asparagus from 10.8 percent of U.S. consumption in 1980 to 91.2 percent in 2015,” he wrote.

The county crop report also showed that 2017 sweet corn harvested was down to 37,500 tons compared to 44,300 tons in 2016.  That corn harvest produced $18.9 million in total value in 2017 compared to $23.3 million in 2016.  Tomato harvest was up in 2017, at 209,300 tons valued at $23.4 million in comparison to 169,000 tons at a value of $19.9 million in 2016.

Shelter in Place Recognized

Contra Costa County Shelter in Place Week received official recognition from the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. Supervisors passed a resolution recognizing the 17th anniversary of Shelter in Place Day that was held November 7 at Garin Elementary School in Brentwood with a drill. At the presentation Board Chair Karen Mitchoff presented the resolution to A. J. (Tony) Semenza, executive director of Community Awareness Emergency Response, and Michael Dossey, an accidental release prevention engineer with the Contra Costa Health Services Hazardous Materials Programs.

Adoption Awareness Month

Also, at the meeting, Supervisors recognized November as Adoption Awareness Month.  Board Chair Karen Mitchoff presented a resolution recognizing the good deeds of the county’s Children and Family Services to Sandra Wohala of Concord who recently adopted two girls.

In order to adopt the girls, Wohala said that she had to move out of her 550 square foot condominium and into a house with a backyard. This year Children and Family Services placed its first ever non-minor dependent adoption. Some 2,000 children in the county receive adoption assistance.

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