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Public hearing set in September on ag runoff regulations

Staff Report, Santa Maria Times
7/12/2011

http://www.santamariatimes.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_6f538f40-ac52-11e0-ba40-001cc4c03286.html

Central Coast residents have until Monday, Aug. 1, to submit written comments on an addendum to proposed changes to regulations for wastes discharged from irrigated agricultural lands.

A public hearing and possible adoption of the draft order and related environmental impact report for the monitoring and reporting program is set for Thursday, Sept. 1, by the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board.

Proposed revisions to the existing regulations essentially would implement more stringent management practices and make operational changes on irrigated agricultural lands.

The goal is to keep irrigation runoff from degrading surface and underground water quality to levels that violate state standards.

Owners and operators of the agricultural operations would have to monitor the operational and management changes to verify compliance with regulations.

They also would be required to file reports on the progress and effectiveness of the changes with the Regional Water Quality Control Board.

The changes have drawn opposition from individuals and groups within the agriculture industry who say the requirements are unreasonable, difficult to meet and financially damaging.

Water board officials say the changes are necessary to protect the quality of water used for drinking and to sustain a healthy environment.

The proposed revisions were developed last year, with a Jan. 3 deadline set for written comments on the draft order, the monitoring and reporting program and the subsequent EIR.

A panel of water board members held an initial public hearing in March and second hearing in May, when the board accepted the late submittal of an alternative proposal from the California Farm Bureau Federation.

Board members directed staff to prepare an addendum to its original report that would compare the draft order and the Farm Bureau Federations alternative.

Written comments and oral comments at the Sept. 1 hearing must focus only on the adden-dum to the staff report and the Farm Bureau Federation documents, a water board spokesman said.

Oral comments at the hearing will be limited to 2 minutes. Those who want an extended speaking time must submit a request, with a brief justification, by Monday, Aug. 8.

Requests should be submitted to Roger Briggs, executive officer of the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, at rbriggs@waterboards.ca.gov.

The public hearing will be held at 8:15 a.m. in the water board office at 895 Aerovista Place, San Luis Obispo.

If a quorum of members is present, the board may vote on adopting the draft order. If a quorum is not present, the board will hear comments and provide further direction to its staff.

All documents related to the hearing are available for review at www.waterboards.ca.gov/centralcoast/water_issues/programs/ag_waivers/ag_order.shtml.

Hard copies may be requested by contacting Barbara Brooks at bbrooks@waterboards.ca.gov.

For more information, email agorder@waterboards.ca.gov or call Angela Schroeter, agricultural regulatory program manager, at 542-4644 or Lisa McCann, watershed protection section manager, at 549-3132.

For more information, see our water quality page:

     

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