It’s the “last call” to join the East San Joaquin Water Quality Coalition, also known as the Irrigated Lands Coalition, said Tom Orvis, Governmental Affairs Directors for the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau, at the recent Oakdale Irrigation District Board of Directors meeting. He said the deadline is Monday, May 13.
The non-profit coalition, one of several, was formed to represent landowners due to California’s Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program (ILRP). The Farm Bureau is assisting the coalition in reaching farmers. There is a cost to join the coalition. After May 13, growers will have to first apply to the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Water Board) and pay a $50 fee before being able to join the coalition. If the landowner was previously notified by the Regional Water Board, the fee becomes $200.
Orvis said that especially in the Oakdale and OID area, the pasture owners have been difficult to get signed up because they don’t believe they need to because they don’t fertilize and don’t have runoff issues. However, Orvis said that pasture owners are irrigators and therefore they fall under the same rules. Oakdale falls under the East San Joaquin Water Quality Coalition’s area.
When asked if small parcel owners such as those with three-acres or five-acres must join the coalition, Orvis said it’s the use, not the size of the parcel, that determines the answer.
“It applies to irrigated agricultural parcels that are involved in commercial agricultural production,” Orvis said. “Sounds vague, but it’s best to ask. We’ve had small parcels that are in the Coalition, and larger 10- to 20-acre parcels that are not. Just depends on use. The key is that it is irrigated in some form – flood, sprinkler, micro-spray or drip, (they) are all considered irrigated.”
According to the Coalition’s website, to determine if an irrigator is considered a “discharger” it states, “The California Water Code has been interpreted to presume that, if you irrigate crops and any irrigation or storm water leaves your property, that water could contain waste constituents which may affect downstream surface water quality. When any surface water leaving your property contains farm waste, you are a ‘discharger’ subject to regulation.”
Groundwater has been added to the surface water program and therefore the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) considers any irrigated crop to have potential to discharge nitrogen fertilizer into groundwater aquifers.
According to the SWRCB’s website, the ILRP was formed to prevent agricultural runoff such as pesticides, fertilizers, salts, pathogens, and sediment from impairing surface waters. It also states that the development of waste discharge requirements under the Long-term ILRP, which will protect both surface water and groundwater, is under way. Further, it states coalition groups work directly with their member growers to assist in complying with Regional Water Board requirements by conducting surface water monitoring and preparing regional plans to address water quality problems.
Growers aren’t required to join a coalition but are required to comply with the Water Code. Also according to the Coalition’s website, if you don’t join a coalition, “you must file a Notice of Intent with the (Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board) to participate in the conditional waiver as an individual. The cost for filing as an individual discharger can be considerable. The California Farm Bureau Federation estimates start up costs and monitoring for an individual waiver at $10,000 for the first year and $3,000 to $6,000 annually thereafter for monitoring and reporting.”
Orvis said that recent signups have been good, but there’s still a long ways to go in the next few days.
Orvis reported that the Stanislaus Farm Bureau offices will be open Friday, May 10 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, May 11 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and Monday, May 13 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The offices are located at 1201 L St., Modesto. Landowners must have their APN (Assessor Parcel Number) and a form of payment – check or money order, cash must be exact amount, no credit cards accepted.
Other options instead of going into the office are to call the Farm Bureau at (209) 522-7278 and ask for the information to be sent or go online to www.esjcoalition.org. Orvis said that the Farm Bureau must have the application by May 13 or it must be postmarked by the May 13 deadline. Otherwise, it rolls over to the Regional Water Board. For more information, landowners/irrigators may also call (209) 846-6112.