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Fear for farming sparks TMDL debate

January 23, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

With the future of farming in Imperial County at the center of debate, a local technical advisory committee created by the state is asking state water officials to delay a program many say could make it too expensive to farm in this area.

The program is known as the total maximum daily load requirements aimed at reducing the level of elements such as silt allowed to move through water ways.

The TMDL requirements would be enforced by the state's Regional Water Quality Control Board.

As part of those requirements, Imperial County would — in the initial phases — be forced to cut the amount of silt flowing off farms into the Alamo River.

Eventually, the amount of silt flowing into the New River also would have to be cut. In addition, in future years, other elements flowing in local water ways also would have to be reduced.

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Local officials have said the TMDL requirements are a critical concern because it could prove much too costly for farmers to cut the flow of silt and other elements.

They said such requirements could put farmers out of business.

With that in mind, officials with the local technical advisory committee, which was formed by the state to review the TMDL issue, passed a resolution asking the state to delay the TMDL requirements.

According to the committee, there are a number of key water issues that must be decided before any TMDL requirements could be finalized.

One such water issue is the proposed transfer of 200,000 acre feet of Imperial Valley water to San Diego. While an agreement has been forged to transfer the water, the agreement will not be a done deal until environmental studies are finished, reviewed and approved.

In addition, committee members said the Salton Sea Restoration Plan has yet to be finalized, which would focus on ways to control the amount of salinity in the sea.

As part of the committee's resolution, it stated there is a link between the TMDL issues and the other water issues.

The resolution states, "Furthermore, allowing the transfer and Salton Sea issues to mature before implementing TMDLs will avoid saddling IID's water users with the burden of conflicting requirements and regulations that inevitably follow a multiple agency piecemeal approach."

The resolution will be sent to the state Regional Water Quality Control Board.

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

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