Press Release

From the Ventura County Agricultural Water Quality Coalition

Contact:           Rob Roy                                  Rex Laird

                       805 388 2727                          805 289 0155

For Immediate Release

May 6, 2005

Regional Water Board Responds to Coalition Plea

At yesterday morning’s meeting of the California Regional Water Quality Control Board – Los
Angeles Region, held in Simi Valley, members of the Ventura County Agricultural Water
Quality Coalition appeared in force to request that the Regional Water Board take action to
modify the existing Santa Clara River Chloride TMDL.  In response to fourteen members of
the Coalition speaking during the public comment phase of the meeting, the Regional Water
Board indicated that they intend to assess the status of a draft report looking into the basis
for changing the chloride water quality standard and, based on that review, conduct a public
hearing to review the chloride TMDL.  A TMDL is a regulatory action that sets limits and a
schedule to achieve compliance with water quality objectives.


This response from the Regional Water Board is a major part of what the Coalition has been
trying to achieve.  Rob Roy, President and General Counsel of the Ventura County
Agricultural Association and Co-Chair of the Coalition, observed that, “The Coalition has
raised serious new issues that need to be considered by the Regional Water Board and they
have listened to us.  By allowing another potential opportunity to revisit the chloride TMDL
we will have a new day in court to convince the Board of the merits of our case.”


Although the Regional Water Board approved a permit in the afternoon for two upstream
sewage treatment plants, that action was overshadowed by the Board’s determination that
they would conduct a special hearing to review the terms of the chloride TMDL.  In
commenting on the significance of the Board’s decision, Rob Roy added, “Based upon the
comments of the board members at yesterday’s hearing, it would appear they have concerns
regarding the basis on which the chloride TMDL was originally adopted.”  Mr. Roy believes
this represents a major victory for the Coalition.


The fourteen voices of the Coalition, supported by three members of the Ventura County
Board of Supervisors (John Flynn, Kathy Long, and Linda Parks) conveyed a clear and
forceful message that the threat of degraded water quality is a critically important issue to
Ventura’s agricultural community.  Supervisor’s John Flynn and Kathy Long testified on
behalf of the Coalition and Supervisor Parks’ Chief of Staff read a letter of support into the
record in support of the Coalition’s position.  Rob Roy, indicating the strong public support
added, “Every person in Ventura County has a stake in the outcome of this fight because
water quality affects everyone.  Not only is irrigation water being affected but so is drinking
water.”


Rex Laird, Chief Executive Officer of the Ventura County Farm Bureau and Co-Chair of the
Coalition added, “Ventura County came together and made a convincing argument that our
water quality is being impaired by up-stream polluters.  When we have the opportunity to
present all of the evidence in a formal public hearing, as it appears we now will be able to
do, we will present a clear and convincing argument that chloride loads need to be reduced
to protect water quality and Ventura County agriculture.


The Coalition was established to respond to a growing threat to the quality of water used
for irrigation from the Santa Clara River.  The threat comes from upstream sewage treatment
plants that annually discharge millions of pounds of chloride to the upper Santa Clara River.  
Flow from the river recharges groundwater that is used by Ventura agriculture and the
chloride content in groundwater is rising.   Strawberry, avocado and citrus crops in Ventura
County are especially threatened when salt levels increase.  Strawberries are a $300 million
dollar industry in Ventura County, lemons represent $148 million, and avocados add another
$100 million in crop value.  Water with higher salt (chloride) levels threaten to reduce crop
productivity.


The Ventura Agricultural Water Quality Coalition is an informal affiliation of organizations
and individual growers who have pledged to engage in a coordinated effort to achieve the
goals of the Coalition.  Supporting organizations include:  The Ventura County Farm Bureau,
the Ventura County Agricultural Association, Western Growers, the California Avocado
Commission, California Strawberry Commission, United Water Conservation District, Somis
Pacific Agricultural Management, the Saticoy Lemon Association, the Ventura County
Economic Development Association, Calavo Growers, Limoneira Company, Oxnard Lemon
Company, Ventura Pacific Company, individual growers and other local agricultural
businesses.  County Supervisor John Flynn is also a member of the Coalition.  The Coalition
is seeking the support of other agricultural and environmental interests to join the Coalition
and protect major segments of the County’s agricultural industry threatened by degraded
water quality.


Ventura County Agricultural Water Quality Coalition

P.O. Box 3117

Camarillo, CA 93011

www.vcawqc.org








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