The regular meeting of the AG & WATER QUALITY ADVISORY COMMITTEE MEETING was called to order on September 29, 2015 at the DOE office in Union Gap.
A three-fruit presentation was made to start the meeting on the efficiencies and changes in the tree-fruit industry. This was followed by an update on the non-point source plan, which DOE submitted to the EPA to receive 319 program funds and meet CZARA requirements. EPA told DOE they were lacking in the following areas to receive 319 funds:
a. Target and meet water quality standards as established by DOE.
b. Set minimum standards but provide flexibility.
c. End product must be implementable on the ground, as in their procedures must be something that can actually done and standards accomplished.
This is not a new regulation. The process requires feedback from stakeholders and needs to be science based. BMPs must be science based. Outreach to begin January 2016 with the draft process to spring 2016 and finalized by summer 2016 to be submitted to the EPA/NOAA during the summer.
Contact Ben Rau at DOE for any input. DOE agrees that NRCS standards must be included, as they are tried and true. The 319 funds and CZARA will be lost if a non-point plan is not in place. No time-line to finalize the non-point plan has been established. Once the draft is done, it will be submitted to EPA. EPA will not pull 319 funds if DOE continues to move forward and work on the deficiencies they had in their plan.
One of the main issues we wanted to discuss at this meeting was the DOE Complaint Response System where DOE encourages the public to report environmental problems, meaning encourages the public to report anything that they feel does not look right. DOE then will be forward the complaint to the appropriate staff members. Those persons reporting the problems can remain anonymous. DOE staff will verify problem existence using site conditions and watershed evaluations. If an actual problem is identified, technical and financial assistance will be offered. Clearly those of us on the DOE Advisory Committee found flaws in this system. The main one being that DOE thinks it is a positive that people can remain anonymous during the process. This allows neighbors to turn in neighbors, whether right or wrong. It also allows this system to be used as a tool when there are problems in a neighborhood. Clearly this system can easily be abused. DOE stands by their decision to allow persons to remain anonymous. The Committee also told DOE that DOE should request to contact the complainant to explain the details of any problems revealed or if nothing is found to be wrong, why. This may lead to people making informed complaints versus opinion based complaints. Clearly WCA feels there are strong issues with this complaint based system, specifically with complainants being allowed to remain anonymous. The Committee asked for more information. This subject will come back up again at a future meeting.
One of the other topics that all WCA members should be paying attention to is the CAFO permit process. A pre-draft draft has been published and WCA has made comments to this pre-draft draft. Clearly the CAFO permit is nowhere near being complete. DOE stated that some of the main issues they are trying to address are as follows:
1) Address ground water concerns;
2) Make permit proactive rather than reactive; and
3) The nutrient management process is burdensome and needs to change.
The main goal of a CAFO permit is to protect ground and surface water issues. There were still questions that need to be answered by DOE on their position to many segments of the CAFO permit, such as, if there is a lagoon, does DOE consider said lagoon to discharge automatically into groundwater? Should buffer strips be implemented in all CAFO permits? Will the public have access to all CAFO information? Have flexible will the permit be? There are still lots of questions in this process that need to be answered for cattlemen everywhere. A formal draft for public comment is to be created by January 2016.
Yakima County Commissioner Rand provided a GWMA overview stating that nitrate contamination has been found in the groundwater in Yakima County, of which reduction of this contamination is necessary. A model is being developed to determine the source of the contamination. This has been going on for some time. GWMA works directly with DOE.
Ginny Prest with WSDA gave a presentation on Nutrient Application training. Some of the issues that come up during the training are:
1) When, Where, and How much manure can be applied and still protect water quality?
2) The curriculum is to include agronomic application, risk analysis, record keeping methodology, irrigation water management and feed management.
3) The start date to develop the Nutrient Application Training to include the above questions and training materials is October 2015, with the completion date of development of the training slated for December 2016, meaning classes should start soon after.
Next Meeting: The next meeting to be located in Olympia on December 9, 2015.
1. Nitrate Prioritization Report: Nitrate contamination and geology
2. CR101 – developing bacteria standard for recreational contact
3. Follow-up to watershed analysis and prepare for 2016.
Yes, the fun continues. Jack will be attending the next meeting in my place and will probably give a more fun filled rendition of what happened.