The Orange County Transportation Authority allocated more than $2 million in September to improve water quality in Orange County, part of its ongoing commitment to protecting the county’s natural resources, while at the same time improvingthe transportation network.
The funds come from Measure M, the half-cent sales tax approved by Orange County voters for transportation improvements, also known as OC Go.
The programincludes funding for an environmental cleanup program that awards money on a competitive basis to cities and the county for projects that reduce the impacts of water pollution related to transportation. The $2 million will help fund 11 projects focused on removing visible pollutants, such as litter and debris, from roads before they reach waterways. These projects include purchasing or upgrading screens, filters and inserts for catch basins, as well as other devices designed to remove pollutants.
Since the inception of this program in 2011, the OCTA board has approved funding for nearly 150 projects, totaling approximately $19 million. It is estimated that more than 1 million cubic feet of trash has been captured as a result of the installation of these devices.
In addition to the environmental cleanup program, OC Go includes a comprehensive program to offset the environmental effects of freeway construction projects. Called the the Freeway Environmental Mitigation Program, amaster agreement between OCTA, Caltrans and state and federal resource agencies was executed in January 2010. This offers higher-value environmental benefits such as habitat protection, connectivity and resource preservation in exchange for streamlined project approvals.
Rather than a piecemeal approach to mitigating impacts from the 13 individual freeway projects, OCTA took a comprehensive approach, allowing for the preservation and protection of large areas of open space with the most sensitive habitat and wildlife. The program, which dedicates 5 percent of funding from the freeway program to the effort, is expected to invest morethan $250 million through 2041.
As part of this program, OCTA has purchased seven open space properties, totaling more than 1,300 acres,from willing sellers to preserve the land permanently and ensure that wildlife and plant species can thrive for generations.
In addition to the land purchases, 12 restoration projects are currently funded throughout Orange County. Funds will aid in removing invasive plant species and restoring about 350 acres of open space to its native habitat.In total, more than $40 million has been spent acquiring and restoring land in Orange County.
For more information, visit www.octa.net/environmental.