Association Challenges SWRCB Fee Increases

This past week the Association testified before the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) to oppose ongoing fee increases for water quality regulations.  Water Quality Fees went up across the board, including the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program (ILRP) and Waste Discharge Requirement (WDR) fees.  Association President/CEO Roger A. Isom testified at the hearing and focused on the WDR fees, which had one of the largest increases at 8.5%, which follows a 65% increase in the previous 5 years.  Isom stated “this is not sustainable.  It must stop now!  While we recognize that regulating water quality is expensive and necessary, it does not justify these fee increases.  The WDR fees are so out of line, they are 10 to 15 times all other regulatory fees combined!  How do you explain that?”  The SWRCB has admitted their fees are high, but put the blame on the State legislature, stating the legislature made the agency 100% fee based.  At the hearing the SWRCB admitted 40% of the fee went to programs that were not ag discharge related.  Isom responded “the problems are twofold.  Yes, the State’s General Fund should pick up the statewide portion of the costs and not put those on ag stakeholders, but the Board needs to review the staff and the efficiencies of their work.  We are going to pursue every  angle we can on this issue and have already initiated discussions with the legislature.“  Other commenters echoed Isom’s comments including Bruce Houdesheldt, from the Sacramento Valley Water Quality Coalition.