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Salton Sea nutrient TMDL: Local farmers stress economic viability

December 13, 2001

The Regional Water Quality Control Board has convened a technical advisory committee to begin the process of developing a nutrient total maximum daily load for the Salton Sea.

The first meeting of the Salton Sea nutrient TMDL technical advisory committee was held Nov. 28 at the regional board headquarters in Palm Desert. The committee was organized by the regional board for the purpose of obtaining stakeholder input as the nutrient TMDL for the Salton Sea is developed.

The responsibilities of the committee include identifying and consulting with expert resources, providing scientific evaluation, providing recommendations and shaping the components of the TMDL. Regional board staff stressed, however, that the regional board has final authority and is ultimately responsible for the TMDL. The regional board plans to adopt a nutrient TMDL for the Salton Sea by November 2004.

During the meeting, committee members noted that although about 85 percent of the sea's inflows are attributable to the Imperial Valley, only a few advisory committee members represent this area. The committee voted to allow one additional farm representative from the Northend of the Imperial Valley as well as an additional municipal representative. These representatives have not been selected at this time.

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Current committee members from the Imperial Valley include: Nicole Rothfleisch, Imperial County Farm Bureau; John-Pierre Menvielle and Al Kalin, local farmers; Khaled Bali, University of California-Imperial County Cooperative Extension; Elston Grubaugh, Imperial Irrigation District; Steve Birdsall, Imperial County ag commissioner; and Eric McGee, Western Farm Service, who represents the fertilizer industry in the Imperial and Coachella valleys.

The local farmers stressed for this TMDL to be successful it must be economically viable for the agricultural industry. Phil Gruenburg, executive officer of the regional board, agreed, stating that, "Putting farmers out of business would be a death sentence for the Salton Sea and that is the last thing that we want here."

The next Salton Sea nutrient TMDL Technical advisory committee meeting will be Jan. 17 at the regional board's office in Palm Desert. The address is 73-720 Fred Waring Drive, Suite 100 and meetings are open to the public. Bylaws will be approved and officers elected. Bali and Eric will be making presentations to the committee to inform the members about farming practices and fertilizer usage in the Imperial Valley. Future committee meetings will alternate between Palm Desert and the Imperial Valley.

The Farm Bureau's voluntary TMDL compliance program will be holding its drainshed meetings for farmers the third week of January at various locations around the Valley. Best-management practices versus poor-management practices for compliance with the previously adopted silt TMDL will be discussed at these meetings.

The details of the drainshed meetings will be advertised in the beginning of January. If you would like to know which drainshed you are a part of or would like to sign up for this free program, contact Nicole Rothfleisch at the Farm Bureau at 352-3831.

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