NMMA urges California board to delay copper regulation

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The National Marine Manufacturers Association met with four of the five members of the California State Water Resources Control Board to request a delay in approving the final plan to reduce the levels of copper in the waters of Marina del Rey.

In February, the board unanimously recommended a mitigation plan to reduce copper levels because the waters of the 4,700-slip harbor contain more than the statewide limit of 3.1 micrograms parts-per-liter of copper.

The state board is expected to take up the issue at its late July or August meeting.

If the mitigation plan recommended by the Los Angeles water board is implemented, the NMMA says that would mean most of the boats kept in Marina del Rey would be required to have their bottoms stripped and painted with non-copper-based paints.

In addition, the mitigation plan calls for dredging that would cost at least $150 million.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is progressing rapidly toward approving a new test that will assess the toxicity of copper levels in specific water bodies. The test, called the Biotic Ligand Model, is expected to find that, in many instances, copper levels far in excess of the state’s generic standard are not toxic to sensitive marine life.

The NMMA and associations representing public and private marinas, yacht brokers and boat insurers urged the commissioners to delay action until the BLM protocol is approved and used by California scientists to determine the toxicity of copper levels found in Marina del Rey.

EPA plans to release a draft of the BLM criteria this fall to obtain scientific views from the public.

“NMMA understands the need to reduce copper levels in waters proven by site-specific studies to be at toxic levels,” NMMA government relations director David Dickerson said in an NMMA newsletter. “However, because the mitigation plans for Marina del Rey are based on the generic toxicity standard, we are urging California to withhold approval of these costly mitigation plans.”

Boatyards estimate that stripping and repainting hulls can cost as much as $8,000 a boat, given the high cost of alternative paints and toxic waste disposal, Dickerson says.

“No boater should be required to bear such a huge financial burden unless it is demanded by the results of the best available science,” he said. “The state water board should withhold approval of the plan until it has in hand the results of BLM testing at Marina del Rey.”

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