In our last entry, we discussed a new program for vineyards in Napa and Sonoma. The program deals with TMDLs. We had some good questions asked after the blog. Now that written comments to the regulatory authority are in, people are interested in March's hearings.
The six most frequent questions were:
1. What are TMDLs?
Maybe the best question. Total Maximum Daily Loads are developed by states or local agencies under the Clean Water Act to address waste discharges affecting water bodies. They state the maximum amount of a pollutant that be discharged and still allow the water to meet quality standards.
2. How does a government agency decide what to regulate?
Each of the regulatory authorities sample water bodies to decide what the "impairment status" is. Is the water in a stressed condition? What is causing that condition? Should limits be set for the cause of the problem? Most of the current TMDLs address metals found in water areas. Some address fecal coliform. Others can address sediment. You can review impacted water bodies on EPA's Clean Water Act website.
3. If I am not in Napa and Sonoma, should I care?
The San Francisdo Regional Water Control Board is implementing this first effort in the country targeting vineyard operations. In other areas of the country, restrictions have not isolated farm activities by a specific product. Is this the first of a trend?
4. Why Napa/Sonoma Rivers?
Before drafting these proposed regulations, the Control Board reviewed a number of waterways. It determined that the population of steelhead and salmon in the Napa and Sonoma rivers had dramatically decreased from their levels in the 1940s. This is an indication of the declining "health" of those two rivers. So, the Board determined that sediment coming largely from vineyards was having a negative impact on river health.
5. What is the Farm Plan that is required?
The Board wants to be sure that vineyards have a true inventory of lands and roads on a farm. The Plan needs to not just inventory, but also to have a strategy to implement new controls to stop loss of topsoil and sediment. This also will address pesticides used that may make it to a waterway.
6. How do I find someone to help with a Farm Plan?
The Board will certify third parties who are qualified to help prepare these plans.
We will keep you up to date on developments. This is an interesting effort that will surely be the first of many similar efforts around the country.