Applied innovative agriculture as a passive alternative to permitting.
An Evolving Program
Recognizing that urban standards for surface water management permitting were inappropriate for farming, the District developed special provisions for an agricultural exemption letter to satisfy the surface water regulations of an environmental resource permit (ERP). The District further categorized specific agricultural activities that could qualify for an exemption letter as “ordinary,” “temporary” and “permanent” farming.
Since 1991 the District has actively supported technical assistance by the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA NRCS) that encourages agriculturalists to use resource management system (RMS) conservation planning and to practice good water management. The NRCS specializes in resource management system planning, which provides farmers with a viable alternative to the usual permitting procedures. The District’s Agricultural Ground and Surface Water Management program specifies that farmers who want an ERP exemption letter must utilize resource management system planning, implement site-specific best management practices and comply with the technical standards for the appropriate exemption category.
The District subsequently expanded these regulation concepts by introducing a full-time “Ag Team” that deals almost exclusively with agricultural projects. The Ag Team works closely with water use permitting (WUP) reviewers to provide a holistic agricultural regulatory review process.
The Ag Team is composed of two full-time District staff members who are specifically responsible for agricultural-related issues. They offer assistance to farmers through site- and situation-specific planning. Conservation planning techniques of the NRCS further complement Ag Team efforts to help facilitate surface water and water use regulation (permitting or exemption) for qualifying agricultural projects.
- Provides for on-site review by Ag Team staff and fosters better understanding by the farmer of potential ERP- and WUP-regulation needs.
- Allows faster decisions and turnaround times by the District.
- RMS conservation planning assists farmers in understanding BMPs and their uses.
- Reduces enforcement action and related production delays and expense.
- Reduces construction costs and acreage by using more passive stormwater management features in place of ponds.
- Reduces permit application fees and costs.