Posted: Thursday, June 28, 2012 10:45 AM
By SEAN ELLIS
SUN VALLEY -- The Environmental Protection Agency will continue throughout 2012 to focus on assisting Idaho water users who apply pesticides to navigable waters to obtain a Clean Water Act permit.
Idaho water users, who oppose the agency's new pesticide general permit requirement, say they will continue to focus on eliminating it.
EPA Idaho permit writer Dirk Helder told Idaho water users recently that the agency won't do any enforcement actions related to the permit in the Pacific Northwest this year, but will continue to focus on educating users and helping them obtain the permit.
Helder said the permit, which went into effect in October, will mostly be needed by irrigation, drainage, mosquito abatement and weed control districts that apply pesticides to navigable waters, tributaries of navigable waters or wetlands.
"Generally, those types of applicators need a permit," he told about 150 water users during the Idaho Water Users Association's annual water law conference.
There has been a lot of concern among farmers about the permit requirements but Helder said the vast majority of individual farmers won't need the permit unless they apply pesticides to those waters.
IWUA Executive Director Norm Semanko, who testified against the permit at U.S. House hearings, said the water group would continue its efforts to eliminate the permit.
That includes working with the Idaho congressional delegation to try to alleviate the EPA of its requirement to implement the permit. The delegation tried unsuccessfully to include a provision that would have done that in the Senate Farm Bill, said Lindsay Nothern, spokesman for Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, who is leading the effort.
Nothern said the delegation will continue to run that provision as stand-alone legislation, but with a lot of big issues looming for Congress, "our best bet is to attach it someplace else.
Helder attended 70 meetings with at least 3,500 participants while working on the permit requirements and said the agency altered the requirements because of input from water users and other groups in Idaho.
"We implemented a lot of good ideas from this group ... because it was helpful and we ended up with a pretty good permit," he said. "We've agreed to work together."
He said the EPA would continue to try to make the permit better and more streamlined for users, an effort that will include training workshops, online worksheets and allowing annual reports to be submitted online.
Helder said a lot of people are still confused about the permit requirements and an EPA website set up to help answer questions is the best way to determine whether someone needs to obtain the permit.
The site can be found by doing a Google search for "EPA pesticide general permit." Click on the first site that appears and then click under "Pesticide General Permit Decision Tool."
That tool will ask 10 questions and then give the user a printout with their permit requirements, if any.
"It's excellent and it's accurate," Helder said. "That's the most accurate way to confirm what (the permit means) to you."