Eastern San Joaquin Irrigated Lands Order Approved

February 14, 2018

On February 7, the State Water Resources Control Board approved the Eastern San Joaquin Irrigated Lands Regulatory Order. Portions of the order set state-wide precedents, which will become the new standard statewide. However, “aspects of this order that are precedential only for third-party based programs are therefore not applicable to the Central Coast" (page 21, footnote 64).

On the Central Coast, the Regional Board's Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program provides an option for groups to perform a limited set of functions for the growers but is not considered a full third-party based program as contemplated by the Eastern San Joaquin order. Reported data from regions such as the Central Coast, where there is not a comprehensive third-party program, will not be anonymous as data will be reported directly to the Regional Board. Where third-party groups have formed, most of the data is submitted to the third-party via anonymous unique identifiers.

San Luis Obispo County Farm Bureau, along with Monterey County Farm Bureau, California Farm Bureau Federation, Grower-Shipper Association of California, and Western Growers made public comments during the nearly 9-hour long hearing in Sacramento. Comments were focused on the overly broad authority granted to Regional Water Boards having the discretion to require additional data related to irrigation and nitrogen management; increase the field reporting area from 640 acres to 1,000 acres as some Tier 3 members would need to submit multiple reports on a single ranch; and urging the State Board to continue supporting a pathway to a third-party coalition on the Central Coast.

In all, there were helpful language clarifications and inserts. However, there was one language insertion regarding "Groundwater Protection Targets" for nitrogen loading, which poses concern for the Central Coast. The purpose of  the Groundwater Protection Targets is to set a desired target that is intended for all growers (including growers that are regulated under an individual order. The ESJ WDR's direct development of the Groundwater Protection Formula by July 1, 2020, development and inclusion of Groundwater Protection Values into a groundwater quality management plan (GQMP) within six months of the availability of the Groundwater Protection Formula, and development of Groundwater Protection Targets within one year of incorporation of a specific Groundwater Protection Value into the GQMP.

The development of the Groundwater Protection Formula, Values, and Targets are precedential for the third-parties that proposed the methodology. Even if the programs do not require GQMP's, all Regional Boards will have to apply this methodology or a similar methodology, designed to determine targets for nitrogen loading within a high priority townships or other geographic areas. This will ultimately end up in our Region 3 Ag Order 4.0. Our Government Affairs staff will be actively participating with the Regional Board in the development of Ag Order 4.0. Also, as with previous Ag Orders, Farm Bureau will be hosting member workshops so we have more opportunities to help shape the Water Board's new Ag Order. For a complete copy of the Order, please click the link below.

Waste Discharge Requirements General Order No. R5-2012-0116

For further information or to comment, please contact Government Affairs Specialist, James Green at jgreen@slofarmbureau.org or 805-543-3654.

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