Modoc County Grower issued penalty for failing to acquire Water Quality Permit

By on February 14, 2018

Modoc County landowner Renee Larranaga has been cited and issued a $19,773 penalty by the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board (CVRWQCB) for failing to obtain a required permit for discharging waste from his irrigated cropland into the Pit River Watershed. The watershed is a tributary of the Sacramento River.

State law requires water quality permits for commercial irrigated lands to ensure waste discharges don’t harm the Central Valley’s rivers and groundwater aquifers. However, the CVRWQCB allows growers to combine resources by forming water quality coalitions who work directly with their member growers to assist them in complying with Central Valley Water Board requirements.  The coalition groups conduct surface water monitoring and prepare regional plans to address water quality problems on behalf of its growers.

The water quality coalitions date back to March 2014 when the Central Valley Water Board issued waste discharge requirements that allowed farmers in the Sacramento River Watershed to join a coalition of growers called the Sacramento Valley Water Quality Coalition. The coalition holds a group water quality permit that covers all of its members. Growers who don’t join the coalition incur much higher costs associated with conducting their own individual monitoring and reporting directly to the CVRWQCB.

Regardless, growers are required to comply with the Water Code. If growers do not obtain regulatory coverage for their waste discharges, they must file a Report of Waste Discharge (Form 200) and pay a filing fee to the Central Valley Water Board to obtain a grower-specific permit, or cease to discharge wastes that may affect the quality of state waters. Landowners whose parcels do not have the required permit are subject to fines and may lose the option to be regulated under the coalition-based permit.

“Owners of unpermitted irrigated lands are undermining the regulatory program and efforts to mitigate agricultural-related water quality problems. With this penalty the Board is sending a strong message that it’s time for the remaining non-permitted growers to obtain all appropriate regulatory coverage,” said Andrew Altevogt, assistant executive officer for the Central Valley Water Board.

Fines for non-compliance of water quality permits is enforced by the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program (ILRP). ILRP staff conducts outreach to owners of commercial irrigated lands to educate them about the program and to require regulatory compliance when appropriate. The ILRP staff also investigates complaints and pursues enforcement against growers for administrative violations including failure to submit required reports and pollution discharge-related violations.