Posted: Thursday, December 09, 2010 11:00 AM
Agricultural leaders wary of ceding control to DEQ
By MITCH LIES
PORTLAND -- The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality will not take over management and regulation of the state's agricultural water quality program, Oregon Department of Agriculture Director Katy Coba said Dec. 1 at a state Board of Agriculture meeting.
ODA manages Oregon's agriculture water quality program under a memorandum of understanding with DEQ.
Coba said the existing relationship will stay in place.
"DEQ has no desire to change that relationship," she said. "DEQ has no desire to take over the (agricultural water quality) program."
The Department of Environmental Quality is reviewing programs that regulate nonpoint and point-source pollution in Oregon's waters as part of a new toxics reduction strategy. The strategy includes a newly adopted fish consumption rate 10 times higher than the existing rate.
The fish consumption rate is used as a basis to determine whether waters meet pollution standards. It is increasing from 17.5 grams of fish a day to 175 grams to accommodate fish consumption habits of American Indians.
Oregon's new rate is higher than that used in neighboring states, according to representatives of the Oregon Department of Justice, who addressed the Oregon Board of Agriculture at the meeting in Portland last week.
Oregon Board of Agriculture member Doug Krahmer said he is concerned that through its oversight, DEQ will force farmers into a "practices-based program," where the state specifies what farm practices are allowed on farms to avoid polluting rivers.
"We think it would be very detrimental to agriculture," Krahmer said.
Oregon currently operates its agricultural water quality program under a "condition-based program," which gauges water conditions in basins to determine whether farmers are adequately protecting water quality, Krahmer said.
Assistant Attorney General Larry Knudsen said everything he's heard indicates the program will continue to be "results oriented," or condition-based.
ODA will continue to be the lead agency. If conflicts arise, Knudsen said the two agencies would work together to resolve the conflicts.
Ultimately, he said, if conflicts between the agencies are not resolved, DEQ could step in and demand state standards be met in a particular stream.
DEQ could not, however, demand a particular strategy be used to meet the standards, Ray Jaindl, administrator of the ODA's Natural Resources Division, said.
"Our understanding with DEQ is the process will continue as is," Coba said.