Meeting Minutes

June 4, 2015 – 1:00 pm

With standing room only, every seat in the room filled, the regular meeting of the AG & WATER QUALITY ADVISORY COMMITTEE MEETING was called to order on June 4, 2015 – 1:00 pm in Sprague, WA.  Vic began the meeting as Co-Chair, but let the body of the committee know that this was his last meeting as chair; Aaron Goliday ended the meeting as the new Co-Chair.

Subcommittee Guidance Document:

Exclusion is not the only way to reach goals, but it is the suggested method by DOE.  The word “fence” was removed from the document.  Tribal interests have not engaged on the document so it may be pushed back.

The document will be sent out to anyone interested, as well as the staff.  It will also go out on the web as we want as much distribution as possible.

Note that this is a living document allowing for change.

Ecology’s Watershed Evaluations:

The Evaluations took place March 16 – 25, 2015.  DOE identified 262 sites as “concerned”, with a varied range of severity.  We will be sending out 20 letters as a result and 10 thank you letters will also be sent out.  In checking with CD’s, it was determined that 16 letters are to be sent out directly to the producers.  Templates of these letters will be on the website.

Approximately 24 dozen tillage sites were identified as concerning to DOE, included some construction, as well as some dredge site activity.

There is a 60-day window to get the findings out after the evaluation process.  DOE missed the timing this year to be able to present the first group to the DOE.  The letters will be more specific on the issues.

Also accomplished were 3 public workshops held, 8 meetings with CD’s, a blog, CD newsletters written, ecology website updated, A CD-hosted workshop was held in Asotin in February of this year.  DOE is planning follow-up workshops for early July 2015.

DOE information on the website provides the public with data.  Improved recordkeeping, increased efficiency and faster response time is necessary and possible due to the mobility of technology.  Mobile GIS research is to include base map, photos, field data, bread-crumb-trail, example BMP site, evaluation area, etc.  Not included are names, address, phone numbers, parcel data, email address and follow-up data from DOE. WCA did not support having all of this information on the website. Although this information is accessible to the public through freedom of information, WCA has taken the position that only some of this information should be on the website as pictures are a snapshot in time and may not reflect what sites currently look like. Anyone that wants that information should have to request it.

Updates:  In the CAFO permitting development, DOE will consider the Consent Decree entered in the Yakima Dairy case litigation as the consent decree has what DOE considers to be some positive points.  Comments on the non-point source update were due this month – June 5th.  WCA submitted excellent comments that were drafted by our intern then firmed up prior to submission.

The Clean Samish Initiative has stalled; stakeholders decided to do a 90-day push to make some progress.

WOTUS: DOE does not think that EPA jurisdiction really changes and will maintain business as usual.  The EPA has not been specific, but DOE feels that the 296 pages does not really change how Washington will govern the permitting process and overseeing of federal waters in Washington. WCA does not agree with this stance, but needs to take the wait and see approach. Clearly with the expanded definition of Waters of the US including connectivity, the jurisdiction of the Federal government is in fact expanded and this is not a positive for landowners.

NRCS – The natural water quality initiative.  Funding watershed improvements is mostly lagoon issues, but could eventually impact ranchers.

Round Table Discussion:

All DOE Advisory Group members were asked to participate and come up with issues for the next meeting. WCA, through Toni and Jack, added to the discussion regarding the fact that investigations are complaint driven and anonymous in nature for DOE and that needs to be explored on how DOE deals with these complaints. Many landowners are being targeted using this complaint process. This process needs to be fair, equitable, and transparent in nature and not a tool to try and get neighbors in trouble with DOE.

Best management is by principle not practice and DOE needs to stick to guidance and allowing landowners to have tools available to rectify any problems, not mandate how to solve problems. Director Bellon did state that she will not mandate no-till farming which was a relief to many people in the audience.

The Northwest Environmental Advocates vs. EPA is June 18th.

Next Meeting:  The next meeting be held in Yakima.