Ocean Beach’s Fireworks’ Fate Could Be Decided Dec. 16

by on December 6, 2010 · 0 comments

in Environment, Ocean Beach, San Diego

Fireworks over the OB Pier - July 4, 2009. Photo by Jeff Stone.

By Anthony Brazos / The Log.com News / December 02, 2010

SAN DIEGO — The fate of over-water fireworks will likely depend on the outcome of a two-hour public meeting scheduled Dec. 16 by the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB).

Lights Out? — The San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board has established costly new permit and water testing requirements for over-water fireworks displays that could effectively end most community-organized shows.

On Sept. 23, the water board cast a tentative vote to require permits for fireworks displays over San Diego Bay, Mission Bay, Ocean Beach, La Jolla and the city of Laguna Beach (which falls within San Diego RWQCB boundaries). These displays celebrating the holidays, New Year’s Eve and Independence Day are viewed by thousands of Southern Californians and are especially popular with recreational boaters, who watch the fireworks shows on the water.

But years of litigation, brought by two well-funded environmental groups who believe trace amounts of residue from airborne fireworks drifting into water columns outweigh overwhelming public demand for fireworks shows, have pressed RWQCB into approving a plan to require permits and costly environmental testing procedures for each show.

While over-water pyrotechnics would still, technically, be legal to produce if the water board’s tentative vote is made permanent with no modifications, costs associated with permit applications and environmental testing are expected to make fireworks shows a financial impossibility for communities that have in the past funded them out of civic pride. The cost of sampling, testing, recording and reporting each event will surpass $25,000, according to La Jolla Community Fireworks Foundation.

Two studies, one spanning more than a decade, found that SeaWorld’s 150 over-water pyrotechnic displays per year produced no appreciable pollution. According to the National Fireworks Foundation, no other city, town or community in the United States has ever implemented environmental permits for over-water fireworks displays — so, the San Diego regional board’s action would be a first.

When the RWQCB meets — from 10 a.m. to noon Dec. 16 — it may weigh public testimony to decide whether any less financially onerous avenues exist to implement permitting. Regardless of the iteration, the plan will be not likely be implemented in time to effect this season’s winter holiday and New Year’s fireworks. However, a plan is expected to be in place that could stop next year’s Independence Day celebrations.

The RWQCB is located at 9174 Sky Park Court, San Diego; (858) 467-2952; waterboards.ca.gov/sandiego.

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