Bacteria levels in the Santa Monica Bay have dropped by more than 85 percent as a result of programs instituted with Proposition O funds, according to the City of Los Angeles Department of Public Works Bureau of Sanitation.

“Santa Monica Bay and its shorelines are among the nation’s most important coastal symbols, and this emphasizes our underlying principle and motivation to protect the bay and ocean,” said Cynthia M. Ruiz, president of the Board of Public Works. “To that end, the City of Los Angeles has committed $500 million from the Prop O bond measure passed in November 2006 by 76 percent of the voters.

“Through Prop O, the city funds water quality projects that protect public health, capture runoff and address the Clean Water Act through the prevention and removal of pollutants.”

The cities of Los Angeles and Santa Monica and the County of Los Angeles have installed 23 “low-flow diversion structures,” which divert urban runoff from streets, gutters, canyons and storm drains into the sewer system.

The diversion structures send the untreated water flows to the Hyperion Wastewater Treatment Plant in El Segundo during the summer dry-weather months, April 1st to October 31st, the highest time of beach use, public works officials said.

The contaminated urban runoff, which includes motor oil, lawn fertilizer, pet droppings and litter, receives full secondary treatment to meet the designated

permit requirements for discharge into the ocean, public works officials said.

Los Angeles operates eight of 23 low-flow diversion structures at a capital cost of $1 million each, with an average annual operation and maintenance cost of $30,000 to $40,000. The city is currently upgrading the structures along Pacific Coast Highway to increase their capacity and reliability at an additional anticipated cost of more than $35 million.

“Environmental protection underscores our commitment to develop and implement innovative water quality solutions,” said Enrique C. Zaldivar, director of the Department of Public Works Bureau of Sanitation. “The city works diligently with regional regulators to comply with water quality requirements and address the regional challenge of urban and stormwater runoff.”

The city has incorporated the diversion structures into the overall strategy to control dry weather runoff pollution. In conjunction with water quality improve- ment projects in Ballona Creek, Dominguez Channel, Los Angeles River and Santa Monica Bay, among others, more than 20,000 catch basin screen covers and inserts were installed between 2005 and 2007 at a total cost of $27 million.

The screens and inserts block and prevent litter from entering the region’s waterways and beaches.

The final phase, to install the remaining 34,000 catch basin screen covers and inserts throughout Los Angeles, is scheduled to begin in the spring.

The Santa Monica Low Flow Diversion Upgrade Project is anticipated to begin in the fall of 2009 along Pacific Coast Highway between Pacific Palisades and the Hyperion Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Information on other stormwater and watershed protection projects,