20 Mar Irrigation General Permit Update
Submitted by: Stacey Callaway, WA Department of Ecology | Water Quality
The irrigation and reclamation districts (districts) in Washington deliver water to over one million acres of irrigated agriculture across the state each year. It is important that the irrigation canals are properly maintained so that farmers get the water they need. Aquatic weeds and algae can clog irrigation systems and keep water from reaching irrigators. One tool used by the districts to keep irrigation systems clear is aquatic pesticides.
Pesticides can be harmful to human health and the environment if not used properly, so district staff follow the requirements in the Irrigation General Permit and on the pesticide label to ensure that chemicals are used in a manner that is safe for both the public and the environment.
Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) is working to update the State’s Irrigation General Permit. Originally issued in 2002 – and updated a few times since – it is now time to update the current version. Ecology started talking with staff from permitted districts early this year to inform how they update this permit. The agency is seeking to learn ideas about the elements of the permit that work and those that need to be improved.
While they are developing potential permit revisions, Ecology is also in the process of developing an environmental report called an Environmental Impact Statement. In this document, they will identify potential environmental impacts from the implementation of the Irrigation General Permit as well as potential strategies for mitigating those impacts.
Ecology will develop a draft permit and the draft environmental report over the next few months and plans to share them with the public sometime this autumn. When the drafts are released, the agency will hold a public comment period to gather input and feedback. During this time, the public is encouraged to tell the agency what they got right, what still needs work, and why they think so. Ecology will also hold public hearings where members of the public may provide comments. Once the public comment period closes, Ecology will carefully review and respond to the comments received and make necessary changes to the general permit.
Ecology anticipates that a revised Irrigation General Permit will likely be issued early next year.
Ecology depends on input from the public, especially when they revise general permits. You can use the following methods to stay informed and to share your ideas with the agency.
- Sign up for the Irrigation General Permit listserv (http://listserv.ecology.wa.gov/scripts/wa-ECOLOGY.exe?A0=IRRIGATION-SYSTEM-NPDES-PERMIT).
- Review information on the Irrigation General Permit webpage (https://ecology.wa.gov/Regulations-Permits/Permits-certifications/Aquatic-pesticide-permits/Irrigation-system-aquatic-weed-control).