Lawsuit Over Water Quality Rules Rejected
An about-face by a Sacramento County Superior Court judge may have cleared the way for the Central California Regional Water Quality Control Board to proceed with approval and implementation of its controversial southern San Joaquin Valley groundwater-related quality regulations aimed at controlling nitrate discharges.
Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Timothy M. Frawley in May found the Regional Board’s environmental reports for the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program are adequate.
Frawley also ruled that temporary rules already in place do not protect water quality but can remain until permanent regulations are finalized, probably over the next few months.
JUDGE’S STANCE CHANGES
Earlier this year, the judge issued a tentative ruling that found the environmental impact report was “inadequate” and called for a new report to be prepared and circulated for public comment.
The proposed Tulare Lake Basin regional regulations would affect farm operations on some 2.9 million acres, including all of the area irrigated from the Friant-Kern Canal in portions of Fresno, Tulare, Kings and Kern counties. The general order is being framed but has not been finalized. An additional 350,000 acres are already covered under a separate dairy order.
Many growers are concerned with regulatory burdens and costs.
EAST SAN JOAQUIN ORDER
Already in place is a similar general order governing farms in the eastern San Joaquin River watershed, including parts of Madera, Merced and Stanislaus counties.
There, officials estimate about 150,000 acres of agricultural land in the area remain unregistered. Growers need to register for and be represented by regional coalitions or individually face tough regulations and requirements on their farmland and irrigation practices.