On Monday, March 9th City of Ventura held their bi-weekly council meeting with a huge focus on water. The Surfrider-Ventura Ocean Friendly Gardens (OFG) Program Chair, the Surfrider National OFG Program Coordinator and other OFG enthusiasts rallied before the meeting to come mainly in support of Agenda item 6, which was the approval of the $770,000 incentive program to help citizens of Ventura to rip out their lawn. All other cities in Southern California already have this program in place as part of the fees that pay for purchase of state water (through Metropolitan Water District, the regional wholesaler). Since Ventura and the Ojai Valley are on local water, they have chosen not to participate in this program. But due to a worsening drought and the water saving value from removing turf, they have decided to fund a program themselves.
4 hours into the meeting, The City Council approved the Ventura Friendly Landscape Incentive Program which will give customers $2 per square foot, anywhere from $800 to $1600 depending on yard size, to replace the lawn with climate appropriate plants.
Paul Herzog, International OFG Program Coordinator got up to speak, as well as Ventura OFG Chair and G3, Green Gardens Group Associate Ashley Parrish-Decker and Jason Brock of the Ventura Coop, all making the point that we shouldn’t just being doing this for drought but to sustain our environment and increase resiliency for the future. They each contributed something different in the quick 3 minutes they had to speak, but each reiterated that artificial turf was not going to cut it, though it may be permeable, the surface underneath is compacted and therefore impermeable and will continue to contribute to the run off problem. It is important we understand we do not live in a desert, but rather a Mediterranean climate. We can support a wide variety of plants and many of our native plants support the birds, bees and butterflies that are native to this area and losing more and more of their habitat each day due to human development. Surfrider OFG and the Ventura Coop offered their support to this incentive program and said they would be out in the community doing the work and the education that would be necessary once the program was being implemented. Successfully the City council approved the incentive with the requirement that only permeable surfaces were permitted and that the watershed approach be included in the program. Right on!
If you subscribe to the Ventura County Star, there is a great summary article reported by Arlene Martinez in todays paper. In addition to the rebates, the Council also voted to a new drought stage plan and increase rates accordingly. Per the article,
“The Ventura City Council approved a revised water shortage contingency plan, along with new rate structure tied to the severity of drought or other emergencies that would strain the water supply.”
“The plan defines levels of water shortage event, starting with a call to cut water use [or else seeing a visible difference in your water bill]” So Stage 2 would require a reduction of 10% while stage 6 requires 50%.
We are currently in stage 3 and will be moving into stage 4 in the next few months, which will then mandate a 30% reduction in water use. The City Council will have the final say of when we move between stages except for in the case of emergencies
Martinez also said that currently under stage 3 the average customer that is keeping usage the same and not making the 20% reduction is seeing a $22 increase on their bill, and so those who have made the reduction will not see an increase at all.
We will be discussing this and more at our Ocean Friendly Gardens meeting this coming Monday, March 16th at 6:30pm at the Surfrider Office 872 E.Front Street Suite 110