Way smoothed for dairies to find homes in Imperial Valley

January 25, 2001|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

The county Planning Commission on Wednesday helped smooth the path for dairies that might locate in the Imperial Valley.

It did so by approving the California Environmental Quality Act review of the solid-waste permit for a general dairy waste discharge permit.

The CEQA review was previously completed by the county's environmental evaluation committee.

What it means is a general dairy waste discharge permit would be obtained by the county from the state Colorado River Basin Regional Water Quality Control Board to cover any number of dairies and feedlots that might locate in the Valley.

The Planning Commission had a public hearing on the issue and several people spoke in favor of the action.

Lauren Grizzle, executive director of the Imperial County Farm Bureau, said the county is trying to attract dairies from throughout the state.


She said the Imperial Valley is a natural location for dairies as it has plenty of room, access to feed, an available workforce, open space and a small population.

Holtville-area farmer Ed McGrew, representing a company called New Dairy One, said negotiations are under way to bring a dairy to the Valley.

El Centro-area farmer Ben Abatti also said he supports the idea .

The county has formed a dairy attraction committee that has been working for almost two years to bring dairies from the Chino area here. Due to groundwater considerations and urban sprawl, the dairies are being displaced.

The Planning Commission was told by county Planning Director Jurg Heuberger that a general waste discharge permit would be considered a benefit to potential dairy owners.

"The idea was that the shortened time frame to get a discharge permit would be an incentive," he said.

Each dairy would still have to obtain a site-specific permit in addition to the required county planning permits.

The county has been working with the Regional Board in developing the general permit, and a draft of the permit has been released for public comment.

The permit would apply to all future and current feedlots, dairies, heifer ranches and calf nurseries, all of which are considered concentrated animal-feeding operations.

Some of the prohibitions under the draft general waste discharge permit include:

l the direct and indirect discharge of waste to any surface water bodies or tributary thereof, is prohibited unless a chronic or catastrophic rainfall causes overflow from a storage facility designed, constructed, maintained and operated to contain all process generated wastewater plus runoff from a 24-hour, 25-year storm. This includes the prohibition of discharge of wastes into surface water via tile lines;

l the discharge of wastes to lands not owned or controlled by the discharger or in a manner not approved by the Regional Board executive officer;

l the discharge of brine waste;

l the use of manure as a fertilizer in any area, including off-site areas, that may affect groundwater quality unless a plan acceptable to the Regional Board executive officer is implemented that mitigates the effects of that use on the underlying groundwater.

Other discharge specifications include:

l the discharge of wastes shall not cause degradation of any water supply;

l dead animals shall be disposed of in accordance with appropriate state and local laws, regulations and alliances;

l manure applied to cultivated cropland shall not exceed agronomic rates and shall be incorporated into soil soon after application or appropriate containment controls, based on the specific crop grown, must be provided.

Additionally, each discharger is required to develop and fully implement an engineered waste management plan acceptable to the Regional Board executive officer. The plan must be developed by a registered professional engineer or other qualified individual.

Many other requirements are in the draft discharge permit.

Heuberger said Planning Commission members and others can submit suggested changes to the draft permit to the Regional Board.

Staff Writer Rudy Yniguez can be reached at 337-3440.

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