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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on February 4th, 2014, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 48 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 14, Issue 48

Water board moves toward establishing daily load regulations


Getting a plan to reduce nutrients and pesticides flowing into a watershed approved by all the appropriate regulatory agencies takes almost as long as it does to collect data, analyze it, and create the plan.

“It’s kind of a drawn out process,” Harvey Packard, a supervising engineer with the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, told the Sun on Feb. 4—the day the State Water Resources Board held a hearing on one of two such plans that was created for the Santa Maria Watershed.

The plans essentially set regulations for something called Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL). TMDLs are defined in long, complicated, technical jargon, but the gist of the documents help spell out what’s impaired in the watershed, who’s responsible, what the water-quality objectives are, and how those goals can be achieved. On Jan. 30, the Central Coast water board approved the TMDL for pesticides in the watershed.

That was not the one heard by the State Water Board on Feb. 4.

In fact, Packard said, the pesticide TMDL will have to wait six to eight months before making the state board’s hearing schedule. The TMDL recently heard before the State Water Board covered nutrients, such as nitrogen, in the watershed.

And, well, the state is not the plan’s final approval stop. If it gained approval from the state board (as of press time, the Sun hadn’t heard one way or another), the plan needs to schedule a hearing date before the Office of Administrative Law. Pending that office’s approval, the plan would also need approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

So, it could be a while before anything is set in stone.

The Central Coast water board created the load standards because the Santa Maria Watershed is on the impaired waters list for too much nutrients and pesticides in the water. The TMDLs essentially point to everyone, agricultural entities and municipalities alike, as causing the damage, and sets longterm goals—10 to 30 years—to reduce the percentage of pesticides and nutrients in water run-off.

“Over time, water quality will improve and, eventually, we’ll meet the targets in the TMDL,” Packard said.

Between things like future technology, the Agricultural Order, which lays down regulations for growers, and other regulations, Packard said the goals set by the TMDLs are achievable.

Claire Wineman, president of the Grower-Shipper Association of San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties, disagrees. She said one of the issues is that it’s hard to pinpoint where every toxin found in water bodies originates.

She added that growers are already in compliance with regulations, and they are already being as efficient they can with water, pesticide, and nutrient usage.

“Based on the currently best available technology,” Wineman said, “it just won’t be achievable.”

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