Federally mandated stormwater compliance inspection deposits are going up. In 2009, when they were first assessed in Idyllwild, deposits required prior to on-site inspection were $196.50, based on a rate of $131 per hour. This year they will be $435, based on an hourly rate of $142, more than doubling in four years.

A stormwater compliance inspection is an on-site evaluation of how business-related functions such as outdoor activities, equipment, materials and waste disposal are managed in order to access potential for degrading water quality through runoff. Inspectors are charged to observe and evaluate on-site vehicles and equipment, trash enclosures and trash processing, storage areas for materials, outdoor industrial or commercial activities, planters and vegetation, loading and unloading areas, and storm drains or other drainage areas.

The deposit is intended to cover inspectors’ transit time traveling to and from Riverside, conducting inspections, and completing subsequent processing of paperwork. Balances after deducting inspection fees are refunded to business owners.

Program Administrator Chandra Thomas noted inspections would, as much as possible, be aggregated in order to reduce per business costs. The reason for the large deposit increase, according to County Building and Safety Director Mike Lara, is that the lower deposits had proven in many cases insufficient to cover actual costs, and it proved difficult to collect fees after the inspection was completed.

Lara said his department is looking at ways to reduce the fee, possibly moving to a flat fee that combines business registration and stormwater compliance inspection fees.

Inspections determine if businesses create effluents or possible pollutants that storm waters could carry into groundwater. Businesses are then classified high, medium or low based on likelihood of creating contaminating runoff.

Businesses classified as high priority require inspection every year. Businesses of this type include gas stations, auto repair facilities, equipment repair and pest control services. Businesses classified as medium priority are inspected every other year and low priority every five years.

Some businesses that are determined to produce no possible groundwater contaminants are classified “n/a” and require no further inspections, unless the nature of the business were to significantly change. A change in business nature would likely require reinspection and reclassification.

Currently, 152 Idyllwild businesses are classified — 34 as high, 43 as medium, and 75 as low. Thomas said all 152 would receive requests for deposit within the next five years, with about 35 sent each year. Notice mailing times would depend upon how the business is classified, with high classification mailings going out first. To date, 137 Idyllwild businesses are classified “n/a.”

Building and Safety officials recommend that business owners evaluate their premises prior to county inspection taking note of what would happen if exposed pollutants such as oil, grease, cement, sediment, chemicals and food waste were carried by rain into streams and groundwater.

County business licenses and fees, required since 2006, are directly linked to the storm water compliance inspections. They provide identification of and information bout the nature of the licensed business. That information provides the basis for generating storm water inspections.

Thomas said County Building and Safety conducts stormwater inspections only for private commercial development and businesses. Camps, school maintenance yards, water agencies and fire departments are inspected by other means, according to Thomas.

She said that business owners who believe they are incorrectly classified could contact her at [email protected].