Superior Court ruling calls for Central Coast farmers to change handling of pesticide runoff

Aug 11, 2015

A ruling this week by a Superior Court judge in Sacramento calls for Central Coast farmers to change the way they deal with water runoff from their fields. It may take a while before any of those changes hit the local agricultural industry. 

Cauliflower crop in the Salinas Valley
Credit U.S. Dept. of Agriculture

Back in 2013, a coalition of local conservation groups filed a lawsuit challenging how the state regulates farm runoff in Monterey, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties.

Their concern is that pesticides were polluting water supplies. Specifically, the group contended a conditional waiver from the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board didn't provide enough environmental protections.

The judge in this case agrees and said new rules need to be developed to protect both surface and groundwater supplies.

George Kostyrko is the spokesperson for the State Water Quality Control Board. He says the ruling is too new to know what's going to happen yet.

"At this point we are reviewing that Sacramento County Superior Court's Decision in this case and really trying to determine what the next best steps might be. But, we're still looking at that and have not made a decision," said Kostyrko.

Ben Pitterle is with Santa Barbara Channelkeeper one of the nonprofits that sued the state. He says the ruling is monumental, even if the results won't be immediate.

"Well what's going to happen is the state is going to initiate a new process that will incorporate stakeholder input, and will likely take some period of time before there are actually new rules in effect for farmers to follow," said Pitterle.

Ken Miller is the head of the local water quality board and told KCBX that as far as regulating local agriculture, it's business as usual at this point. He said a whole series of legal steps has to happen before farmers will see any changes.