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San Diego Region - Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs) and Enhanced Compliance Actions (ECAs) (updated 4/29/13)

Dischargers may satisfy portions of assessed civil liabilities by funding Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs) and/or Enhanced Compliance Actions (ECAs) that are acceptable to the San Diego Water Board.  Project proponents are encouraged to contact the San Diego Water Board staff to discuss whether their proposal qualifies as a SEP or ECA.  If the project proponent is not the discharger, the proponent should submit a copy of their final proposal to the relevant discharger(s). Relevant dischargers can be identified through the Board’s notice of active ACL complaints.  If a discharger proposes a SEP and/or ECA as part of settlement discussions, the San Diego Water Board staff will evaluate the proposal to determine whether it qualifies as a SEP/ECA and furthers the mission of the Board. The San Diego Water Board may or may not approve any individual SEP or ECA proposed by a Discharger.

While SEPs and ECAs can be a means of retaining some portion of assessed penalties within a particular region or area, oversight of such projects can require a great deal of San Diego Water Board staff time. Even reliance on a third party for such oversight requires that San Diego Water Board ensure a third party tracks completion. Therefore, if a Discharger proposes a SEP/ECA, which requires significantly more staff oversight than a nominal amount of time needed to track the project’s progress, the Discharger may be required to make additional payment to the State Board to cover the cost of San Diego Water Board oversight.

Supplemental Environmental Projects
SEPs are projects that will contribute to the enhancement, protection or restoration of water quality and beneficial uses of waters in the San Diego Region. A project is considered to be "supplemental" if the project does not qualify to be funded and implemented through an existing program, and does not involve an existing obligation or requirement of the Water Board.

In 2000, the San Diego Water Board established a procedure to facilitate the evaluation and acceptance of SEPs. In addition, the State Water Resources Control Board Water Quality Enforcement Policy, adopted in February 2002, added additional criteria to consider when approving SEPs. In 2009, the State Water Board adopted a SEP Policy, which updates the criteria in the 2002 policy. Based on the 2009 SEP Policy, each project application must meet the following criteria:

  1. A SEP shall only consist of measures that go above and beyond the otherwise applicable obligations of the discharger;
  2. The SEP shall directly benefit or study groundwater or surface water quality or quantity, and the beneficial uses of waters of the State;
  3. A SEP shall never directly benefit, in a fiscal manner, a Water Board’s functions, its members, its staff, or family of members and staff;
  4. The scope of the SEP must be defined at the time the SEP is authorized by a Water Board;
  5. When appropriate, the SEP must include documented support by other public agencies, public groups, and affected persons;
  6. The SEP must provide either a direct benefit to the harmed area or provide region-wide or statewide use or benefit;
  7. The SEP proposal must include, based on the stage of development, documentation that the project complies with the California Environmental Quality Act;
  8. The SEP proposal must address whether it can be the basis for additional funding from other sources;
  9. The entity identified as responsible for completing the SEP must have the institutional stability and capacity to complete the SEP. Such consideration should include the ability of the entity to accomplish the work and provide the products and reports expected;
  10. The SEP proposal must include, where appropriate, success criteria and requirements for monitoring to track the long-term success of the project; and
  11. There must be a nexus between the violation(s) and the SEP. In other words, there must be a relationship between the nature or location of the violation and the nature or location of the proposed SEP.

Enhanced Compliance Actions
Enhanced Compliance Actions (ECAs) are projects that enable a discharger to make capital or operational improvements beyond those required by law, and are separate from projects designed to merely bring a discharger into compliance.  According to the May 2010 Water Quality Enforcement Policy, ECAs are subject to the same rules that apply to SEPs and the Water Boards must require the following:

  1. ECAs must have clearly identified project goals, costs, milestones, and completion dates and these must be specified in the ACL order.
  2. ECAs that will last longer than one year must have at least quarterly reporting requirements.
  3. Upon completion of an ECA, the discharger must submit a final report declaring such completion and detailing fund expenditures and goals achieved.
  4. If the discharger completes the ECA to the satisfaction of the Water Board by the specified date, the suspended amount is dismissed.
  5. If the ECA is not completed to the satisfaction of the Water Board on the specified date the amount suspended becomes due and payable to the CAA or other fund or account as authorized by statute.
  6. The ACL complaint or order must clearly state that payment of the previously suspended amount does not relieve the discharger of its independent obligation to take necessary actions to achieve compliance.

For more information

Please contact Chiara Clemente at 619-521-3371.