State Board Puts Parts of Controversial Ag Waiver on Hold
August 31, 2012
The newest chapter in the struggle that never seems to end puts some provisions of controversial Central Coast agricultural water quality rules on hold.
After years of deliberations and extensions of an expired set of rules, called the ag waiver, the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board finally approved a new ag waiver in March, requiring the largest growers and biggest polluters in the region to reduce pesticides and fertilizers in runoff.
Both environmental and agricultural groups appealed the ag waiver, and the first hearing went before the State Water Resources Control Board in Sacramento Wednesday. The board made no decisions on whether to grant the appeal, but agreed to put some provisions of the ag waiver on hold.
This allows growers to continue business as usual while appeal hearings proceed; should the ag waiver eventually be upheld, this delay would just set back the clock on compliance.
The water board did not specify how much additional time they'll grant growers, or which aspects of the ag waiver will still roll out as scheduled, but a more detailed report is due out on Sept. 10. Their decision came after a day of public testimony from stakeholders and more than three hours of closed session deliberations.
"I am extremely saddened by the board’s decision to delay a regionally made decision to protect the environment and drinking water for thousands of people in Monterey County," says Steve Shimek, executive director of Monterey Coastkeeper, an appellant asking for even stricter standards.
This decision is a tentative win for ag interests that requested a hold. An email newsletter to Monterey County Farm Bureau members instructs growers to proceed with compliance until the board issues clarifications on Sept. 10 regarding extended or suspended deadlines.
Under current regulations, growers must submit plans for improving water quality by Oct. 1. Those plans include irrigation, fertilizer and pesticide use plans to be updated annually. Larger farms also have to calculate how much nitrate might run off their properties and document the condition of adjacent waterways with photos and sampling.
For more history on the ag waiver, visit www.mcweekly.com/agwaiver.