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House Addresses Double Whammy to Irrigators

by Carol Ryan Dumas
Capital Press, July 21, 2011

Bill would do away with additional permits for aquatic pesticide use

Idaho water users are watching a key U.S. House subcommittee in hopes they will get relief from an aquatic pesticide regulation they see as onerous. Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho and chairman of the Interior and Environment Appropriations subcommittee, inserted language in an appropriations bill July 12 that would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from requiring additional permits for aquatic pesticide use under the Clean Water Act.

Water users, who spray aquatic herbicides to keep canals free of weeds for water delivery and to prevent flooding, are already regulated under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, said Norm Semanko, executive director of Idaho Water Users Association.

"Double permitting is so unreasonable. We're already regulated by EPA. It's a perfect example of red tape and bureaucracy run amok," he said. EPA's additional requirement that aquatic pesticide users have a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit would go into effect Oct. 31, threatening to cripple water-delivery to farms and communities, he said.

Simpson attached legislative language that would amend both FIFRA and the Clean Water Act to clarify pesticide users would be regulated under FIFRA and not under the Clean Water Act. The language mirrors that of HR872, passed the House in March and the Senate Agriculture Committee in June.

"We now have two legislative vehicles to get this legislation in," Semanko said.

Even if the Interior appropriations bill doesn't pass, HR872 will stand on its own, he said.

Through either bill, Congress will do away with the burdensome double compliance requirement, said Ted Diehl, general manager of North Side Canal Co. in Jerome.

Irrigated agriculture is going to have a tough time if the legislation doesn't pass, he said. While Western legislators understand the issue, those back East don't.

"People back there don't understand irrigation water; they think canals are rivers," he said.

The additional permit would also apply to pesticides used to control mosquitoes and other insects, Semanko said.

"The public impacts of that are just staggering," he said.

EPA also appears to be on board. In 2006, the agency issued a rule that NPDES permits weren't required for aquatic pesticide application because those pesticides are not a pollutant, he said.

But in 2009, the 6th U.S. District Court of Appeals ruled the pesticides were a pollutant and applicators needed the additional permit under the Clean Water Act. It also ordered EPA to promulgate a new permitting process.

EPA has indicated it expects to publish that final permit July 31, he said. But EPA, at the request of congressional sponsors, also wrote the legislative language to clarify that the permit is not required.

Related Pages:
NMFS' Delivers Draft on Protecting Salmon from Certain Pesticides by Staff, Columbia Basin Bulletin, 3/4/11
Simpson Draws Praise From the Idaho Water User Community by Staff, Ag Weekly, 7/12/11

Carol Ryan Dumas
House Addresses Double Whammy to Irrigators
Capital Press, July 21, 2011

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