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Environmental Information needed for local governments

Local Governments have limited funds and staff. As a consequence, local governments rely heavily on environmental information and data available from state and federal agencies. Not only does the environmental information and data need to be available, but it needs to be readily accessible and in formats local governments can readily use.

Some of the types of environmental information and data needed include: information for planning and zoning (e.g. maps of bayfronts and wetlands, surface waters (creeks, watersheds, lakes, rivers, ponds, etc..) ground waters, sensitive geologic areas (susceptible to slides, earthquakes, flooding), water supply, etc .. Not only location data, but quality, quantity and sensitivity.

This information could be used in developing and/or updating general plans and zoning codes. We updated our General Plan in 1996 and included several goals and objectives to preserve our ridgelines, hillsides and to restrict development in environmental sensitive and scenic areas. In codifying the plan, we adopted overlay zones which included maps of these sensitive areas -- bayfronts, wetlands, creeks (with set backs of 50 feet from the creek), ridgelines and scenic resources. This required tremendous staff resources, because we did not have the maps readily available. Since EPA has contracts with NASA for mapping, why not make them available to local governments for NO CHARGE. This would aid us in helping to carry out the mission of the Agency while achieving our objectives.

Also, EMF's is a BIG issue here. EPA has done some research, but has not taken a position. It really helps out local governments, when federal and state agencies can conduct and/or sponsor research then issue guidelines in a timely fashion. At the local level, we do not have the time to wait for an absolute answer on environmental issues. Given the current technical information available, provide the guidance so that local governments can decide which avenue to take. And, as more research becomes available keep local governments informed.

Environmental information and data needed for planning and land use is always needed. But, we also need model ordinances readily available and when the industry objects, help to defend it. For example, we are discussing a proposed ordinance to restrict new fire places per the Air Quality Management District's recommendation. However, the hearth association has been constantly questioning city staff on technical issues they are not knowledgeable about. If the State or Federal Government would like local governments to help implement programs based on sound environmental information and data (e.g. particulate matter from fireplaces), then they need to provide the model ordinances (off the shelf) and the technical assistance during implementation.

Alot of the environmental programs are being delegated to local governments for implementation because we have the land use authority. However, we don't get the environmental information and data unless we make the calls and know who to contact. I find that local governments do not have the contacts readily available .. that would certainly help.

The public and local governments rely heavily on federal and state agencies to conduct the research and disseminate the information. City and County staff do not have the time to try and figure out who to call for what ..

Do the Federal and State agencies meet the needs?? Mixed .. Alot of information is available, but there is not a clearinghouse for this information and/or data. We need a one-stop shop for information and environmental data. And, it would be helpful if State and Federal Agencies proactively sent out information to local governments. Especially on availability of data and grants.

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