As Poche Beach was once again included in Heal the Bay’s Beach Bummer list, county and local officials are looking to construct a water reclamation project to divert runoff from reaching the beach.
Poche Beach, located on the border of Capistrano Beach and San Clemente, received an F for its wet weather grade from the environmental nonprofit, which evaluates amounts of fecal indicator bacteria that represent a potential health risk to beachgoers.
Orange County Fifth District Supervisor Katrina Foley noted that as soon as she saw Heal the Bay’s latest report released this past June, she thought, “How can we get this fixed?”
The project will “eliminate runoff discharges to Poche Beach during dry weather to protect the beach water quality and provide regulatory compliance from bacteria standards,” said Foley, who added that it also aims to set up Poche with a better grade in future Heal the Bay report cards.
The project will reclaim 350- to 500-acre-feet of water per year, the equivalent of 175 to 250 Olympic-sized swimming pools, Foley explained.
“It’s a cleaning of water and eliminating the bacteria from going into the ocean, but it’s also reclaiming water, 175- to 250-Olympic-sized swimming pools’ worth, so dry weather runoff for local water supply,” Foley said.
In March, Congressman Mike Levin, who represents California’s 49th Congressional District that covers much of South Orange County and North San Diego County, submitted a $5 million federal funding request for the water reclamation project as a part of the Fiscal Year 2024 government funding package.
However, the House bill has set aside $959,752 for the project, pending approval, according to Levin’s office.
In the request, Levin noted that the project would provide “diversion and advanced treatment to upcycle runoff from the 4,500-acre Prima Deshecha watershed and provide high-quality recycled water and protect beach water quality.”
In a statement, Levin explained that the funds would protect local beaches by improving water quality and diverting sewage runoff.
“I have worked hard to keep our beaches clean, and this project is another step towards that goal,” Levin said. The funding is currently being considered in the House of Representatives, and I will continue to advocate for its approval.”
As the project awaits funding from Congress, no estimated timeline was available.
When reached for comment on the matter, staff with the county, the project’s partner agency, referred The Capistrano Dispatch to the City of San Clemente, the agency overseeing the construction and operation. A representative from the city’s utilities department had not responded to a request for comment as of press time.