Farm groups petition to improve Central Coast water regulations
» April 17, 2012 «
Based on violations of state environmental and water laws, the State Water Resources Control Board should set aside new agricultural water regulations for the Central Coast region, according to petitions filed by a coalition of farm organizations. Stressing that they support efforts to enhance water quality in the region, the organizations said the plan adopted last month by the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board contains "unlawful requirements" that will "gravely impact" farmers and agricultural businesses in the region, while failing to improve water quality.
Separate, complementary petitions were filed Monday with the state water board: one from the California Farm Bureau Federation and seven county Farm Bureaus in the Central Coast region, the other from a coalition composed of Western Growers, the Grower-Shipper Association of Central California and the Grower-Shipper Association of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties.
All of the organizations participated actively in hearings that led up to adoption of the regulations and collaborated on an alternative plan that would have achieved water quality goals without imposing unnecessary burdens on individual farmers and ranchers.
The petitions say staff of the regional water board did not adequately review the agricultural alternative proposal and therefore presented biased analysis that led the board not to adopt the more effective and reasonable plan.
The plan ultimately adopted by the board never underwent appropriate review of its impacts, according to the Farm Bureau petition. The petition says the new plan will lead to "dramatic and severe impacts on the agricultural industry, which will have a significant effect on the economic and social environment of the region." Those impacts include negative economic consequences, possible elimination of some crops produced in the area, loss of jobs, loss of food supply, loss of prime farmland, loss of wildlife habitat and other social and economic implications.
In its separate petition, the coalition of agricultural groups asks the state water board to halt implementation of the new Central Coast program.
The petition outlines rules violations during the March 15 regional board hearing at which the new regulations were adopted, which prevented farmers and other affected parties from commenting on last-minute changes to the regulations.
In their petitions, the farm organizations ask the State Water Resources Control Board to overturn the regional board's adoption of the agricultural water plan, and to revise the plan to allow farmers to maintain third-party groups that conduct monitoring and other water-quality activities on behalf of individual growers.
The coalition petition notes that regional board staff continually advised board members that the creation of third-party groups did not meet legal standards, even though agricultural organizations contested that opinion. The organizations' petition says the regional board staff "mistakenly characterized" the regional board's authority to establish the groups as well as the state water board's position on the value and legality of such groups in implementing water-quality programs.
That mischaracterization, the petition says, hindered the regional board's ability to consider the more-effective approach contained in the agricultural alternative proposal.Contact:
Abby Taylor-Silva, Grower-Shipper Association of Central California, 831-422-8844
Dave Kranz, California Farm Bureau Federation, 916-561-5550
Wendy Fink-Weber, Western Growers, 949-885-2256
Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.Top