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Discussions may lead to settlement over creek fine

ENCINITAS — The city of Encinitas is nearing a settlement with the San Diego Regional Water Quality Board over a proposed $430,000 fine against the city for letting sediment-filled runoff to flow from a city park construction site into the San Elijo Lagoon.

A senior environmental scientist with the state board said the board and city could reach a resolution as early as July, depending on the results of several more closed-session discussions.

The City Council will take up one of those discussions Wednesday during the 5 p.m. closed session.

“Within a month or two we should have the issue resolved one way or another,” said Chiara Clemente, the state environmental scientist.

The city, the water quality board and USS Cal Builders, the contractor for the Encinitas Community Park, have been in settlement discussions since December 2013, shortly after the board announced its proposed fines against the city.

The fines stem from 2012 and 2013, when rains pushed dirt from the 44-acre construction site into Rossini Creek and the San Elijo Lagoon, first in December 2012 and again in March 2013. The complaint alleges that the city did not have a suitable runoff management plan in place for much of the fall and winter of that year, which resulted in the fine being levied for 16 days during that period.

City officials at the time said that the city had been taking steps to improve the drainage on the site, and self-reported the spills to the regional board.

The public will have a 30-day window to weigh in on any settlement agreement, Clemente said. Following the review period, David Gibson, the agency’s executive officer, can either accept the settlement or reject it, which would then push the matter to a public hearing in front of the water quality board or back into closed-door settlement discussions.