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State Water Board May Delay New Ag Rules

Staff Report, Santa Maria Times
August 7, 2012

http://santamariatimes.com/business/local/state-water-board-may-delay-new-ag-rules/article_ece58886-e032-11e1-bbed-0019bb2963f4.html
State Water Board may delay new ag rules
Hearing scheduled Aug. 30 in Sacramento

A public hearing to consider delaying stringent new rules on agricultural irrigation runoff, approved earlier this year, will be held at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 30, in Sacramento by the State Water Resources Control Board.

Under the ag order adopted March 15 by the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, farmers have to meet more stringent requirements on the quality of irrigation runoff, monitor it more closely and report on how well its being controlled.

Also known as the conditional waiver of waste discharge requirements for irrigated lands, the new rules are an effort to reduce the amount of pollution entering lakes, streams and groundwater basins, according to the water board staff.

Staffers said the more stringent regulations were prompted by tests that showed a continuing rise in groundwater nitrate levels and pesticide, herbicide and nutrient levels in surface waters.

Water board staff attributed the increases mainly to irrigation runoff from agricultural operations.

Under the new ag order, farmers are required to develop irrigation and runoff management plans, monitor water quality in aquifers, lakes and streams around their farms and report the results to state officials.

The controversial order was adopted after several years of staff work and a number of public hearings, including a final hearing where about 60 speakers presented some 18 hours of testimony over two days.

Environmental groups said the order did not go far enough and wanted even more stringent requirements.

Farmers, ranchers and other agricultural interests said the order goes too far, and the cost of implementing the rules and reporting the results will be excessively expensive.

The hearing will take place in the Coastal Hearing Room on the second floor of the Joe Serna Jr. Cal EPA headquarters building, 1001 I St., Sacramento.

Interested persons those who did not request and receive party status may speak at the hearing or present written, non-evidentiary statements about policy.

Specific requirements and limits apply to written statements, which can be hand-delivered at the hearing or mailed, faxed or emailed.

Statements can be emailed to commentletters@waterboards.ca.gov, faxed to 916-341-5620 or mailed to Jeanine Townsend, clerk to the board, State Water Resources Control Board, 1001 I St., 24th Floor, Sacramento, CA 95814.

For more information about the hearing, contact Emel Wadhwani, staff counsel, at 916-322-3622 or ewadhwani@waterboards.ca.gov, or Bethany Pane, senior staff counsel, at 916-341-5173 or bpane@waterboards.ca.gov.

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