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In November 2014, California voters overwhelming approved Proposition 1, a bond measure to provide financing to increase water supply, provide clean, safe and reliable water, and restore habitat.

The total amount authorized was $7.5 billion to be allocated among seven categories: water storage, watershed protection and restoration, groundwater sustainability, regional water management, water recycling and desalination, drinking water quality and flood protection. Slightly more than a third of the for those businesses should have been “none,” meaning no further fee deposits or inspections, as long as the nature of the business operation or business owner does not change. If business owners feel their businesses fall into this category, and they have, nevertheless, received a fee deposit request, they can call Thomas at (951) 955-5996. “If there’s any way we can lower a priority classification to help local businesses, we will,” said Thomas.

Thomas was the original administrator for the compliance program when it was established in 2009 and has recently returned to her position supervising business license compliance. Groundwater inspections attach to Riverside County business licenses, not property ownership, and are mandated under County Ordinance 857, “Business Registration and Licensing Program.”

Businesses requiring continuing inspections are classified from low to high priority ranked on likelihood of producing effluents that could contaminate groundwater.

Thomas is in the process of reviewing listed Idyllwild businesses to make certain they are properly classified:

  • None, based on prior storm water compliance inspections (no fee, no further inspection; home-based businesses are included in this category);
  • Low (deposit and inspection every five years);
  • Medium (deposit and inspection every two years; and
  • High (deposit and inspection every year).

Records currently show 13 high-priority Idyllwild businesses, 25 medium, 53 low, 55 classified as N/A or none and 33 home-based businesses.
As are most inspection fees in Riverside County, storm water compliance fees are “deposit” based, meaning refunds could be issued depending on the amount of time it takes inspectors to conduct the inspection as well as drive time from Riverside. The $444 fee represents a three-hour estimate.

If an inspection takes less time, a business owner could receive a refund. Thomas said refunds average between $120 and $150, based on inspection and drive time. Thomas noted drive time is aggregated so that all businesses inspected during a day by the same inspector, both in Idyllwild and near Idyllwild, divide the total day’s drive time.

Each year, the county Board of Supervisors sets hourly billing rates for county inspectors. Storm water discharge inspections are conducted by certified inspectors, who, like water agency field personnel, must take continuing education courses to either keep their certifications current or advance them to higher levels.

Building and Safety Compliance Division officials recommend local business operators evaluate their premises prior to county inspection to take note of and correct possible contaminants, such as oil, grease, cement, sediment, chemicals and food waste that could affect groundwater.

Thomas cautioned that businesses cited for improper disposal of potential pollutants would require additional deposits and future follow-up inspections to determine if infractions have been corrected.

Conversely, if an inspector determines after several years of inspections that a high-priority business has had no infractions, the inspector has the authority to reclassify the business to a lower priority, necessitating less frequent inspections and fee deposits.

Certain high-priority businesses, such as gas stations, car washes or lumber yards, with much of their operation either conducted outside or affecting outdoor areas, cannot be reclassified even if there are no infractions. Businesses such as these fall within standard industrial classification codes that can’t be altered, according to state mandates, said Thomas.

The gray areas in classifications occur when any business, regardless of coding, conducts outdoor washing down of business components, creating the possibility of soap runoff into the groundwater system. Similarly, if a restaurant serves patrons outdoors and fluids