An end in sight for TMDL regulations?

January 10, 2002

Many of you have heard over the past couple years that the silt total maximum daily load is just the first of a 13 TMDLs onslaught to face farmers of the Imperial Valley. It seemed for a time there was no end in sight for additional water-quality regulations and the resulting burdens placed on Valley farmers.

I am here to tell you today that, according to the Regional Water Quality Control Board, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

As you know, the silt TMDL has already been adopted and a nutrient TMDL is on the way. What has been confusing to most of us is that although the regional board may adopt separate silt TMDLs for the Alamo River, the New River, and the agricultural drains, all farmers really have to worry about is reducing the silt in their own farm runoff n not which TMDL they have to comply with. The situation is similar for the other impairments found in our local water bodies.


The nutrient TMDL for the Salton Sea will be focusing primarily on decreasing the phosphate load going into the sea. Phosphate causes algae blooms and reduced oxygen content in the sea, a process known as eutrophication. The technical advisory committee for this TMDL is working together to come up with reasonable means of achieving this goal.

Although both the silt and the phosphate TMDL can be detrimental to the local farming economy if unrealistic standards are set, once both are adopted and serious efforts are made to comply, the TMDL issue should be behind the Imperial Valley agricultural industry. There should be no additional TMDLs for farmers to think about or worry about.

I am not trivializing the impact these two may have on you, just reiterating that there is some finality and a light at the end of the tunnel for TMDLs.

Our regional water board is urging the federal Environmental Protection Agency to address the selenium problem farther up the Colorado River, where it originates. Local farmers can do nothing to address this problem because selenium is in Colorado River water before farmers apply it to irrigate their fields. Most other local water impairments are attributed to Mexico and efforts are being made to get that water cleaned up on both sides of the border.

Phil Gruenberg of the Regional Water Quality Control Board interestingly has commented that if the Imperial Irrigation District and the farmers decide to maintain the Salton Sea (which he feels is in our best interest), the regional board may "lighten up" on TMDL enforcement in order to continue receiving agricultural drain water flow into the sea.

Who knows what lies in our future regarding water-quality regulations? Time will tell. The Farm Bureau is, however, working to maintain the farming community's best interests when it comes to these issues.

The next nutrient TMDL technical advisory committee meeting will be at 10 a.m. Jan. 17 at the regional board offices. The address is 73-720 Fred Waring Drive, Suite 100 in Palm Desert and the meeting is open to the public.

In my last column I did not mention, by mistake, that Cydean Gillespie from our local U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service will also be representing the Imperial Valley on this committee.

Also this month, the Farm Bureau will be having drainshed meetings. All farmers should receive notification of a meeting in their area. Four meetings will be conducted the third week of January. We will be discussing best-management practices for the silt TMDL. If you have any questions or would like to attend any of these meetings, please call Nicole at the Farm Bureau at 352-3831 or email her at

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