Proposed regulations would end July 4th fireworks displays around the county

By James R. Riffel

City News Service

Proposed fees and regulations for coastal fireworks shows in San Diego County would put an end to traditional July 4th pyrotechnics near bodies of water, and residents should oppose the idea, Mayor Jerry Sanders said Friday.

The California Regional Water Quality Control’s San Diego Board will hold a workshop on Thursday to hear public comments on the proposed regulation, which would require organizers of coastal fireworks displays to apply for permits and monitor water quality.

Environmentalists say the water monitoring is especially important because some of the shows take place near sensitive marine habitats.

But Sanders said the proposed permit fees and monitoring studies could double the costs of already under-funded fireworks shows, forcing organizers to cancel them.

"(The regulations) will surely stop all coastal fireworks shows immediately,” Sanders said.

Other community organizations that have fireworks shows near water, such as Santee’s near the San Diego River, would also be affected, he said.

The regulations are in response to opposition to the fireworks displays by environmental activists who claim the ash pollutes nearby bodies of water.

The La Jolla Community Fireworks Foundation, which stages an annual Independence Day show at La Jolla Cove, had to fend off a lawsuit this past June before its show could go on.

Fear of a lawsuit caused the Port of San Diego Tenants Association to cancel a fireworks show over San Diego Bay this past New Year’s.

“Sometimes you get into a situation that’s kind of ridiculous because some people decide to push an issue and another side overreacts,” Sanders said. “This is killing an ant with a sledgehammer.”

Under threat of a lawsuit, SeaWorld San Diego agreed to monitor the water quality of Mission Bay several years ago and has found minimal adverse affects from more than 100 fireworks shows a year, the mayor said.

A spokesman for the nautical theme park could not immediately be reached for confirmation.

Other organizations that could be affected by the water board’s proposal are the San Diego Symphony, which puts on about 20 fireworks shows a year at its Summer Pops concerts at the Embarcadero Park, and radio station KGB, which puts on the Sky Show after a San Diego State University football game each September at Qualcomm Stadium, next to the San Diego River.

The board does not plan to make a decision next week. The mayor said his understanding was that the regulations, which are are still subject to modification, could be issued in February.