A bill is beginning to work its way through the state Legislature to require that new water quality rules be peer reviewed to determine their effectiveness.
Senate Bill 1306 by state Sen. Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, would require that all general rules governing agricultural and storm water runoff be peer reviewed by an external scientific panel to determine their effectiveness and to ensure public participation in their development.
“Water quality guidelines should be based on rigorous science and well vetted with the stakeholder community to ensure they will actually achieve the intended outcome and maximize compliance,” Blakeslee said.
The Senate Committee on Environmental Quality recently approved the bill and sent it on to the Committee on Appropriations.
Blakeslee said he was motivated to write the bill following a town hall meeting he held concerning sweeping new agricultural discharge rules adopted March 15 by the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board.
Participants in the town hall “spoke fervently about overreach and the water board not listening to input,” Blakeslee said.
Water officials deny that the public was excluded from the process, noting that the new rules were developed over four years and were subjected to numerous hearings and workshops.
“This action is the culmination of an arduous process that included extensive comment from the agricultural community, environmental groups and the public,” said Jeffrey Young, chairman of the Central Coast board.
If the bill becomes law, it will not retroactively apply to the new Central Coast farm runoff rules, Blakeslee said. However, farmers have appealed the rules to the State Water Resources Control Board.
The state board may decide to send the rules back to the Central Coast board for revisions. In that case, they could be subjected to the bill, Blakeslee said.
The bill would also apply to new rules governing commercial, industrial and municipal storm runoff that affect a variety of businesses and government agencies in the region.