Mayor Mary Ann Lutz delivered the keynote address Wednesday at a symposium examining the health of the San Gabriel River Watershed, stressing that the region needs to work more cooperatively to solve its water problems.
Lutz identified funding as the major challenge to keeping the watershed healthy in the future, citing the rising costs to implement regulations as a major challenge for municipalities already struggling to pay for basic services in a down economy.
"They can't afford to pay for the rapid rate of what is being demanded of them right now," Lutz said.
Though regulations continue to demand more attention and resources from cities, they come at an inopportune time, she said.
"As storm water regulations continue to grow and the costs escalate, the question remains today as it has all these years: How do cities strike a balance between the need and the desire to comply with stormwater regulations ... at a time when we're closing fire stations, when we're shutting down parks, when we're laying off the very city staff who would be tasked with actually interpreting and enforcing these regulations?"
Lutz said the answer lies in greater regional cooperation that takes a "comprehensive and patient" approach to water. Lawsuits and squabbles over federal funds only complicate an already complex problem, Lutz said.
The symposium coincided with the release of the "State of the San Gabriel River Watershed Report," a summary of a five-year study conducted by the San Gabriel River Regional Monitoring Partners (SGRRMP) to assess the health of the watershed. The study lasted from 2005 to 2009.
According to an executive summary of the report, toxicity was observed "infrequently" and confined to the upper watershed, and dangerous chemicals rarely exceeded acceptable levels.
Eight popular swimming destinations within the watershed were tested to see if bacterial levels exceeded what is considered safe for swimming, and the areas generally passed, according to the executive summary.
"E. Coli levels during 2007-2009 were typically below California standards indicating that it is safe to swim," the summary states.
The report also considered the safety of eating fish caught from various areas within the watershed.
Levels of four contaminants were found to be acceptable in tilapia, red ear sunfish, and bluegill species, according to the report. Largemouth bass andcommon carp caught at Puddingstone Lake had "elevated" mercury levels, and carp, bass and striped mullet caught in the Upper Estuary contained high concentrations of a contaminant "suggesting that their consumption be limited to one meal per week," the summary states.
For the next year, the SGRRMP will focus on studying mercury levels in fish, examining proteins in aquatic insects, and monitoring flame retardants in watershed sediments, according to the summary. Recovery of sites burned by the 2009 Morris fire will also be monitored, it says.