State approves needed funds for Pillar Point pollution study


By on Fri, October 22, 2010

Tuesday, in Sacramento, the State Water Resources Control Board voted unanimously to approve an additional $202,683 for the increased costs incurred for our project to identify sources of fecal pollution impacting Pillar Point Harbor due to suspension of the project during the bond freeze.  After nearly two exhausting years of working towards its restoration, the project will proceed as originally envisioned! 

Pillar Point Harbor is heavily used by boating enthusiasts, kayakers, windsurfers, hikers, dog walkers, bird watchers, swimmers, waders, families, clam diggers, surfers, and spectators for the world famous Mavericks big wave surf break.  Water quality in the harbor is chronically is so poor that it is  listed as impaired by coliform bacteria on the 303(d) list submitted to the United States Environmental Protection Agency.  Capistrano Beach in the harbor has been ranked for several years by the Heal the Bay’s Report Card as a “Beach Bummer,” meaning that it is in the top ten most polluted beaches in California in dry weather conditions, and is permanently posted by the San Mateo County Environmental Health Department as a potential health hazard.

The RCD and the State Water Board executed an agreement in January 2008 for an $845,611 grant for the project.  The project was actively underway when the state suspended disbursement of bond proceeds and issued orders to bond-funded projects to stop work.   In January of this year, the RCD was authorized to restart the project if it could be completed within the original budget by March 2011.  We replied with a request for additional time as well as additional funding to cover increased costs resulting from the bond suspension, including replacing PCR (polymerace chain reaction) reagents that had expired, reinstalling stream gages, recalibrating field equipment, and increased personnel costs.  Additionally, the stop work order was issued partway through a wet season of monitoring, providing and incomplete and misleading data set.  For a successful project outcome, it will be necessary to repeat much of the data collection that was done during that time in order to collect a full continuous season of data.
With these funds from the State Water Board, the full project is restored and will now be able to assess and identify sources of fecal pollution in Pillar Point Harbor and recommend opportunities for remediation.
I am thrilled to share this news with you.  Many people have contributed to the successful restoration of this project.  I would like to thank those RCD staff and former staff and directors who worked tirelessly to restore funding, members of the project’s Technical Advisory Committee who advocated for the project and provided essential advice and input during this period of uncertainty, the consultants who remained committed to the project at their own risk and expense, the 100+ volunteers who generated a complete set of data to understand harbor circulation, the San Mateo County Harbor Commission who generously supported completion of the circulation study, our patient and informative grant manager at the State Water Board, and others who contributed their expertise and passion to the project.
The RCD looks forward to continuing our work with all of you.  Please do not hesitate to contact us at any time.
Kellyx Nelson
Executive Director
San Mateo County Resource Conservation District