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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Santee’s New Clean Water Manager

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Ensuring the city of Santee complies with the Clean Water Act requires a person with multiple talents and the ability to switch hats when needed.
Newly hired Stormwater Program Manager Cecilia Tipton said she’s comfortable with the various roles she must play to keep the city in good standing with state water-quality regulators.

Cities are encouraged to increase the public’s awareness about the vital role individuals play in preventing water-borne pollutants from harming the watersheds that drains into the San Diego River.   In her role as teacher, Tipton has a strategy for making her message relevant.
“Tying our message to specific community interests (such as fishing at nearby reservoirs and the San Diego River) is important,” she said. “That way, you can get user buy-in; then it becomes important to them.”

Making the connection between clean water and recreational fishing would be easy if everyone realized how cumulative acts such as littering or dumping soapy water into the storm drain can adversely impact water quality.

“The typical person doesn’t stop to think about the different layers of how our water system works,” she said.
Beyond public education, Tipton also is required to be a local water-quality cop. If she sees a construction site without proper erosion controls, she must stop construction or take other measures to enforce the state’s strict rules on preventing sediment transport.

The section of the river in Santee is currently listed by the state as “impaired” due to excess sediment.

“With all the new development that’s going on in Santee, that’s one of our biggest priorities,” she said. “We’re definitely paying a lot of attention to that.”
In San Diego County, the state regulates stormwater under a regional permit that requires all 18 cities and the county to coordinate and standardize their local regulations. This requires Tipton to be a collaborator.

She developed these skills while she was employed for 8.5 years with the county’s Watershed Protection Program.  She was hired by the county after graduating from San Diego State University with a specialized Bachelor’s degree in geology, environmental politics and technical writing.
This May, the stormwater manager job became more demanding and complex when the state adopted new regulations requiring cities to increase inspections in residential neighborhoods.

“Before we would respond to residential complaints (about illegal dumping, etc.), but now we have to actually develop and implement a residential compliance program,” she said.
Tipton, whose first day on the job was Dec. 9, said her first weeks have been a flurry of activity.

“The days go by fast, that’s for sure,” she said. “It’s been go, go, go.”

Editor's note: Tipton is a Santee resident

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