Both sides dissatisfied with proposed new water pollution rules for farms.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
After two years of revisions, the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board will vote on a new rule for agricultural water quality March 17 that will, in essence, require the largest farms to pollute less.
Only problem is, the board is one vote short of a quorum.
With three vacancies and two grower-members recusing themselves due to a conflict of interest, only four board members will vote at this week’s meeting in Watsonville. It’s not enough to approve the rule, but it is enough to seal the issue from further public comment.
Until Gov. Jerry Brown appoints a new board member, the waiver can’t take effect.
Before 2004, farmers in California were exempt from meeting water quality standards like those that apply to so-called point-source polluters, like factories. That’s when the regional water board issued a conditional waiver for agriculture, requiring the region’s some 3,000 growers to monitor and report on water quality. The waiver allows growers to report water quality data collectively, rather than individually as point sources do.
The combination of water quality issues agriculture poses comprises the “most complex, broad reaching issue we’ve dealt with,” says Roger Briggs, executive officer of the board.
The existing waiver has already been extended twice since it first expired in 2009. Monterey Coastkeeper supports a stricter version, and the Farm Bureau supports its own December proposal with less demanding time frames for compliance. Briggs says there’s already been too much delay.
“There’s no question in our minds that now is the time to make improvements,” Briggs says. “We’re not interested in producing reports, we’re interested in getting results.”