This fall, American Whitewater joined with other conservation and recreation groups to file a "Friend of the Court" brief in a case before the Supreme Court. The case addresses whether municipalities should be responsible for cleaning up stormwater pollution. The case was originally brought by NRDC and Santa Monica Baykeeper in 2008. Los Angeles County and the Los Angeles County Flood Control District had violated their NPDES permit under the Clean Water Act, and the organizations sued to hold them responsible for cleaning up pollution in the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers. The L.A. River is paved in portions, and the County and the District were treating the river as a conveyance system rather than a river, and claimed that they were not responsible for cleaning up the pollution. In 2011, the 9th Circuit disagreed, holding the District responsible for cleaning up the pollution as required by their permit. The District appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, and oral arguments in the case were heard on December 4th.
The case has implications beyond the L.A. and San Gabriel Rivers, impacting rivers that flow through towns and cities across the country. American Whitewater joined other conservation and recreation groups in filing a brief supporting NRDC and the Baykeeper because of the importance of clean rivers for the health and safety of whitewater enthusiats throughout the U.S. Polluted stormwater runoff is one of the key causes of degraded water quality on many of the rivers we love. Paddlers have been a key part of cleaning up polluted rivers in the past, and through this case, AW continues to defend clean water and paddler health. Many thanks to the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic for their efforts with the brief.
To learn more about how recreation is blossiming in the midst of an urban expanse on the L.A. River, check out this feature article from the L.A. Times.
If you're interested in the legal background of the case (Los Angeles County Flood Control District v. NRDC), visit the Supreme Court's blog.