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Runoff Loopholes


The Indy’s “Aggie Agitation” article (March 31) paints a distorted picture of the process underway to update our region’s agricultural runoff control regulations. I personally served for over a year on a panel comprised of agricultural and environmental representatives tasked by the Regional Water Board to develop recommendations, and have followed the process closely since. Despite dissolving after a year when agricultural representatives abandoned the process, there was consensus among both growers and environmentalists that growers should know what’s in their runoff.

Unfortunately, due to monumental ag industry pressure, the current proposal for updating the ag discharge regulations is so watered-down and contains so many loopholes that significant portions of the Central Coast will receive none of the water quality protections originally envisioned. It is unlikely that a single operation from Gaviota to the Ventura County line will fall into the “Tier 3” category as currently designed - meaning there will be no additional requirements placed on local growers to sample their own runoff, despite known water quality problems caused by ag in our region. In fact, under the current proposal, more local growers may be placed in Tier 1, which would be even less stringent than existing regulations.

Finally, “Aggie Agitation” failed to mention that of the 250 attendees at the Watsonville hearing, the majority of speakers, including members of rural communities who have become ill from drinking contaminated well water, spoke in support of additional water quality protections. The Central Coast needs and wants increased protection of water quality from polluted farm runoff.

Ben Pitterle is the watershed program director for Santa Barbara Channelkeeper

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