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January 23, 2001|Staff Writer

The technical advisory committee formed to review regulations farmers could face regarding lessening silt runoff from their farms into local waterways will meet Monday.

The meeting will be at 1:30 p.m. in the Imperial Irrigation District water control office in the IID headquarters on East Barioni Boulevard in Imperial. The meeting is open to the public.

Discussion will focus on total maximum daily load, which means the amount of materials such as silt allowed in waterways according to state regulations enforced by the Regional Water Quality Control Board.

Lauren Grizzle, executive director of the Imperial County Farm Bureau, said TMDL regulations are a critical concern in the Imperial Valley because they could make it too costly to farm in the area.


"This is a huge issue, " Grizzle said.

IID Executive Officer Brad Luckey said the purpose of the meeting is to determine what phase the TMDL issue has reached. He said there has been little new information released by state water quality control officials recently.

"They have been way too quiet," Luckey said. "We have not heard anything."

He added the last time the issue was discussed locally, the state was requiring silt in the Alamo River be reduced to 200 milligrams per liter, down from 400 milligrams per liter.

He said the state was to issue a draft TMDL document on silt in the Alamo that would address the need and the benefit, but there has been no such release.

Luckey said the concern locally is how farmers would cut in half the amount of silt in the Alamo.

He said the cost of addressing the issue is a key. He said local officials are looking for some information from the state about why it would be a necessary step.

Reducing silt is only the first TMDL regulation that would be implemented. In future years there would be regulations that would call on farmers to reduce other elements in waterways.

Luckey added one point to consider is reducing such elements could lead to less water flowing into the local drains and therefore into the Salton Sea.

Farmers would use what have been called "best-management practices" to reduce materials flowing into the waterways. That means farmers would slow the movement of water, which could mean less water flowing off farms.

If that were to happen it could lead to an increase in the concentration of selenium in waterways and the Salton Sea.

He said it is not that farmers are producing selenium. He said there already is selenium in the Colorado River, which flows into the local waterways.

Selenium concentrations would increase because of reduced fresh water flowing through the waterways. High concentrations of selenium, an elemental metal, can be harmful to humans and animals.

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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