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TMDL: State water quality board releases draft to the public

April 23, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

The draft of a report that could affect the future of farming in the Imperial Valley has been released for public review.

Released by the California Regional Water Quality Control Board, the report deals with total maximum daily load — the amount of silt and other materials allowed to flow through waterways.

The report focuses on cutting silt/sedimentation in the Alamo River by 50 percent.

According to the report, the silt level in the Alamo is about 400 milligrams per liter. The proposal by the Regional Water Quality Control Board is to cut that to 200 milligrams per liter.

To those not in the farming industry, such numbers may not mean much, but to local farmers it means additional costs to cut the silt flowing off their farms into the Alamo — costs that could make it too expensive to maintain operations.


"We just don't know what this will take and what it will cost," said Lauren Grizzle, executive director of the Imperial County Farm Bureau and the Imperial Valley Vegetable Growers Association. "We can't do it at the expense of the viability of our business."

According to state water officials, the TMDL issue has come about from both the state and federal clean water acts in connection with what is known as "beneficial uses" of waterways.

The beneficial use relates to the health of the aquatic and avian life that depend on the waterway.

The report notes that "sediment serves as a carrier for DDT, DDT metabolites and other insoluble pesticides including toxaphene, which pose a threat to aquatic and avian communities and people feeding on fish from the Alamo River."

The Alamo River is a waterway considered "water-quality limited" because the river's sediment load violates water-quality standards meant to protect the beneficial use.

According to water officials, the clean water acts require the state to implement TMDL regulations for those pollutants causing a decline in water quality.

The sedimentation/silt TMDL is only the first of what could be several TMDL regulations to affect local waterways in coming years.

A public workshop on the Alamo River TMDL has been scheduled for May 24 at the Imperial Valley Expo.

All public comments must be submitted to the Regional Water Quality Control Board by June 12.

A public hearing to likely make a decision on the issue will be June 27 at the City Council chambers in La Quinta.

According to Teresa Newkirk, TMDL unit chief for the Water Quality Control Board, if the issue is approved by that board it then goes to the state Water Resource Board for approval.

Final approval rests with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which could override any decision at the state level, according to Newkirk.

She said state water officials are willing to consider the comments and concerns of the local farming community.

However, Newkirk said of the proposed reduction of silt in the Alamo to 200 milligrams per liter: "We evaluated other numbers and 200 was a compromise."

Brad Luckey, executive officer of the Imperial Irrigation District, said while the report focuses on the Alamo it will affect all waterways in the Valley.

He said the silt for the most part comes from ag runoff.

Luckey said it is unlikely a regulation affecting the Alamo would not affect the New River. He said that would mean some farmers whose runoff feeds into the Alamo would face a tougher TMDL while farmers whose runoff feeds into the New River would not.

"How could it not?" Luckey asked. "You cannot have two sets of standards."

He added the TMDL will affect all ag drains in the IID service area.

Grizzle said local officials are lobbying to have language added to the TMDL proposal that would credit farmers for efforts to reduce silt.

She said farmers should not be punished if despite their best effort to reduce ag-runoff they are unable to reach the 200 milligram per liter mark.

Copies of the report can be reviewed at public libraries in El Centro, Holtville, Imperial, Calipatria, Brawley and Westmorland. A copy also can be viewed at this newspaper.

The report is available on the Internet at

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

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