Water board to discuss aquatic pesticides | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Water board to discuss aquatic pesticides

Adam Jensen / Tahoe Daily Tribune

The use of aquatic pesticides throughout much the eastern side of California will be a matter of discussion during a public meeting in South Lake Tahoe on Friday.

The Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board is developing an amendment to its basin plan that would conditionally allow the use of aquatic pesticides throughout the state agency’s more than 33,000-square- mile jurisdiction.

At Lake Tahoe, land managers have discussed using pesticides to control populations of aquatic invasive species that threaten the health of the lake.

But the wording of the current Lahontan Water Board pesticide water quality objective effectively bans the use of such pesticides.

“If a project proponent had a proposal, basically, that they wanted to use pesticides, they currently don’t have a pathway to come forward with that proposal because of this strict objective,” said Lahontan Water Board Environmental Scientist Dan Sussman.

Current regulations require pesticides to be used in amounts that do not exceed the lowest detectable levels, according to a project description for the amendment.

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But with improving technology able to detect lower and lower amounts of aquatic pesticides, the objective “essentially prohibits” their use, according to a description of the amendment.

Pesticides have the ability to impact drinking water quality and wildlife, and the Water Board is exploring ways to mitigate or prevent those impacts, Sussman said.

Although the specific measures to combat the potential negative effects of pesticides are still in development, it’s likely that project proponents would need to meet a series of “protective criteria” before they would be allowed to proceed, Sussman said.

“We’re just getting going,” Sussman said. “We’re developing the policy as we speak.”

Water Board staff will meet to discuss the amendment from 1 to 3 p.m. at the U.S. Forest Service Office at 35 College Drive in South Lake Tahoe.

An environmental review process and several public comment periods are expected to follow the initial scoping meeting.

The earliest the plan amendment would be before the Regional Quality Control Board is in the spring, Sussman said.

The State Water Resources Control Board, as well as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, need to approve the amendment, something that wouldn’t likely happen until Fall 2010, Sussman said.

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Governing Board is also likely to weigh in on the subject, said spokesman Dennis Oliver.

Although the idea of putting chemicals in a the lake may seem “counter-intuitive,” pesticides could be a critical tool to manage aquatic invasive species at Lake Tahoe, Oliver said.

“We are very interested in positioning ourselves so that we can use the best technology available to manage aquatic plants like milfoil,” Oliver said. “One of the things we’re hearing is we may be very close to the day where we can use certain pesticides to deal with this problem.”