Morro Valley Farmers Fined Out of Existence by RWQCB!
It was like deju vu all over again. The secret email sent in the dead of night to Roger Briggs, CEO of the Regional Water Quality Control Boar, demanding him to "fine those farmers out of existence." Roger’s reply that he was already on the case, the legal papers were already in the pipeline. Four times the amount of nitrates allowed were found to have contaminated the drinking water wells of Morro Bay. And as Morro Bay has been sewered, Roger couldn’t slap ACLs or CDOs on the residents of Morro Bay, so he moved immediately to slap $12 million dollar ACL fines on the farmers in Morro Valley and started issued CDOs on 45 individual farmers picked at random.
Residents of Los Osos, especially The Los Osos 45, were happy to note that when it comes to equal justice under the law, Mr. Briggs was keeping a level playing field. Said one of The 45, "When I first read of the high nitrates in Morro Bay’s drinking water, I figured Roger would do nothing except maybe ‘work with local agricultural management agencies to develop improved farming techniques.’ We figured he’d ignore the farmera, even though they were guilty of 'polluting the groundwaters of the state of California' since he had his hands full prosecuting us 45 for 'polluting the groundwaters of the state of California.'"
"But no, we’re relieved to see he’s issued ACL and CDOs and those farmers will now face about two years of unremitting hell, being dragged into the RWQCB’s Mad Hatter Tea Party & Torquemada’s auto de fe Kangaroo Court, watching them change the rules and goal posts any time they felt like it, jerking them around and ruining their lives as well. It’s nice to see justice being administered with an even hand."
Oh, wait. What am I saying? I just made that up. Truthfully/ Morro Bay’s wells are contaminated by high nitrates. Since Morro Bay has been sewered for about 50 years, the RWQCB has decided they can’t flog that dead horse, so they’ve decided that the contamination is coming from the farms in Morro Valley and the city of Morro Bay will (finally) also be looking at the Chorro Valley as well.
So, did the RWQCB slap CDO’s or ACLs and huge fines on the farmers, like they did on The Los Oso 45? Don’t be silly. That might be seen as treating people fairly and administering their regulatory oversight fairly and in an even-handed manner.
Instead, The Los Osos 45 were trashed while the Morro Bay Valley farmers will be referred "to local agricultural management agencies for assistance on farming techniques." Said the RWQCB’s enforcement coordinator, Harvey Packard, "We’re looking at the report and we’ll be working with the stakeholders to resolve the city’s problems."
Isn’t that nice? Working with the stakeholders to solve problems. And not a CDO in sight. How sweet. Equal justice under law.
Here Come Da Stealth Resolution
Ran into Al Barrow in SLOTown the other day. He’s been asking around various county and city folks to see if they’re aware of the Regional Water Board’s new septic Resolution, a draft of which has a public comment period ending April 7th. Apparently a whole lot of governmental folks who should be in the know are going to be caught flat-footed by this. And the citizens who now use septic tanks and so will be directly impacted, are completely out of the loop.
What’s that, you say? Never heard of it? Nothing in the Tribune? Which is odd, since anyone in Los Osos knows how well coordinated the Tribune and the RWQCB are on, uh, getting "messages" out. No Town Hall Meetings? No public input hearings on TV? No notification letters to all county residents holding septic tank permits informing them up the draft changes? Nope, not a peep on an ordinance that will have major impact on a whole lot of people living throughout the county, including a whole bunch of people living here in Los Osos outside the PZ—Helloooo Cabrillo Estates, Hellloo, all you folks living east of town.
As with other "stealth" ordinances, once the public comment period is closed and once the draft is voted on, that’s it. If you only find out about the thing then, too bad, too late, goodbye. Any problems with the ordinance can then only be challenged in court, with the happless citizen now facing the Attorney General’s Suit Boys from Sacramento who will dance them around again, Willy, until they’re bankrupt. That’s how these stealth ordinances operate --- meet the letter of the law while strangling its intent.
And lest any of you think I'm some kind of "anti-clean water obstructionist," wrong. I was hoping that AB885 would have been completed by now. This new ordinance smacks of nothing more than an end run around AB885 -- a stealth attempt to put in place a bad ordinance run by a bad board and staff. Bad board and staff, you say? Yes. After watching this particular RWQCB and staff for 24 years and especially watching their performance for the past two years, I no longer have any confidence in their competence, trusworthiness and/or ethical reliability as a Regulatory Agency in a regulatory structure that is devoid of properly functioning checks and balances. THAT's the real problem -- we now have a system of foxes and wolves and chicken coops. That is never good.
What follows is an excerpted email from Mr. Barrow and a Press Release from PZLDF.
[ . . . re . . . ] the CCRWQC Onsite Wastewater Management Plan. It is a little unclear in their attempt to clarify so I have attached an opine by a retired grade 5 wastewater operator. She managed Riverside WWTP and knows some onsite and reg issues.
While Gail is critical of the RB3 she brings some valid points and impacts to view that a non professional not might see. Keep in mind she dealt with those regulators as part of here responsibilities to the ratepayers.
Most ranch/farms are served by septic systems as sewer is not available (the county approved method of onsite treatment). 50% of all residences are on septic tanks. Some impacts:
You will have to pay for an inspection, pumping and a discharge permit.
Renewal up to 5 years all with additional fees
Some homes may be denied discharge permit unless you purchase advanced systems that can cost up to $50k plus monthly fees up to $50.00 (electrical to run aeration etc.)
Any development with 5 or more units will be required to have a centralized treatment system!
Any secondary dwelling will require an acre!
The RB3 will determine arbitrarily what actions they will take: they run a tight ship without normal due process which means you have to fight with the Attorney General to get recourse after an appeal to the SWRCB then you have standing with the courts.
This will have a negative impact on affordable housing, my dog in the fight. The Director of SLO Planning , Victor Hollanda was not aware of this water board's plan as of today. How many other stakeholders are not?
Please forward this e-mail to all stake holders: residents, SLO AG Department, SLO Farm Bureau and anyone else you care about. The public can submit comments up until April 7, 2008.
You are a developer, real estate broker and I assume you and your husband are in the ag business as well so you are going to be impacted as well as your clients who will require disclosure. The Water Board is doing this on the quiet so those who are impacted will likely not have the chance to express their concerns properly.
We all support clean water and responsible wastewater management. I am on an ad hoc committee that developed our own Onsite Wastewater Management Program for Los Osos based on the approved Santa Cruz County Plan 1995 Howard Kolb RB3 and John Ricker Santa Cruz County EHS. I have some knowledge of this issue and was a member of California Onsite Wastewater Association and attended many conferences on AB 885 the statewide Onsite mandate that after 6 years can't get any traction so the CCRWQCB is going around it in their Basin Plan Update. That is dodging all the issues that COWA has brought forth which includes the private and public sector.
Feel free to forward this to anyone including the RWQCB who I am ccing. Sorrell Marks is the staff person on this item which they should postpone the hearing and extend the comment so all concerned parties can comment.
Thank You,Al Barrow, President, Citizens for Affordable and Safe Environment & Coalition for Low Income Housing LOCSD WW Advisory Committee
The Press Release for the March 24 meeting
Citizens For Clean Water
Monday March 24th 7:00 at Washington Mutual Bank Los Osos.
Main Topic Of Discussion
Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board -NEW-Onsite Regulations:
Please forward message to your friends, neighbors and colleagues throughout the region
Basin Plan Revisions to onsite systems can be found at CCRWQCB http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/centralcoast/index.htm http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/centralcoast/Permits/Index.htmPUBLIC COMMENT DEADLINE IS APRIL 7TH....
(See comments and other documents on State plan @ http://www.swrcb.ca.gov/ab885/index.html)
The actual property owners affected by the Regional Board proposed regulations have not been notified or part of the public process. While the Basin Plan update for onsite is important for the ability of the CCRWQCB to protect the waters of the state, it is vital this regional board comply with due process, and is not allowed to further abuse its regulatory powers.
Citizens for Clean Water believes that the Basin Plan revisions concerning onsite systems are long overdue. However, all efforts from the community property home owners and the Los Osos Community Services District to work cooperatively with Water Board Staff have been rejected countless times. Citizens for Clean Water-PZLDF has worked toward offering work-plans and assistance in updating and strengthen the onsite regulations in lieu of the adverse punishment.(ACL fines the CDO's and settlement CAO's). These efforts for public participation that would result in actual water quality protection and improvements were rejected in order to make a "Poster Child" examples of the individuals in Los Osos.
The timing of the revisions and CCW-PZLDF citizen lawsuit challenging the existing Basin Plan resolution that were used to impose harsh individual enforcement, and violated constitutional protections make this update to supersede 83-12 no more than a cover ill-founded enforcement.
These actions promulgate power to use the same enforcement tactics against individuals throughout the region, it is an unfunded mandate on already strapped government agencies for another costly program, that does nothing to improve water quality.
See other comments on SWRCB site: http://www.swrcb.ca.gov/ab885/docs/scopingreport.pdf
The ccrwqcb revisions to onsite may be especially onerous to individual property owners throughout the entire region. The water board seeks to expand their discretionary power in every resolution. However, IT IS NOT JUST ABOUT LOS OSOS! the entire tri county region will find the water board power to act as the final authority on land planning.
Just one example is the 5 unit parcel developments will require a community system, and no granny units will be allowed without adding another acre. WDR(permits) are either implemented or waived, (either options is not final) if findings later require a community system to hook up to, and you are on basic septic, it may become an automatic PZ --
the resolutions have no cost/benefits information or analysis (no CEQA, no economics, or scientific findings are required, the findings states enough already has been done and the impacts minimal)
This is the same tactic that was used against Los Osos in resolution 83-12 and 83-13---then morphed to make those with septic's properties in the same category as "major polluters" and homes illegal.
Please send this out to the other communities in region 3 and the State organizations. The RWQCB backdoor version of State Onsite ( AB885) is anti-property rights, anti-affordability, (eliminates affordable housing in rural areas), provides power to foreclose on environmentally sound green solutions, and steps way beyond the scope of water protection to land planning---this is another power grab for an out-of-control board that has no oversight.
Citizens for Clean Water www.pzldf.org