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Water Quality

The Pudding basin is one of the most intensely farmed agricultural sub-basins in the Willamette Valley. In 2002, Marion County, the Pudding River Watershed Council and the Marion SWCD began a Water Quality Monitoring program in the Pudding River watershed to establish baseline water quality conditions. This program provided a means for residents to learn about their watershed, volunteers to collect data and stakeholders to have tools for future decision-making and restoration efforts. This information folded into the Water Quality chapter of the Pudding River Watershed Assessment that was completed in 2006. Because the information was collected, graded, and submitted to the DEQ’s water monitoring database, it was also used in the 2008 Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) allocations in the Molalla/Pudding basin by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

Ag Water Quality Management

The Agricultural Water Quality Management (AgWQM) Area Plan, came out of the Agricultural Water Quality Management Act (Senate Bill 1010) in 1993. Our local area plan for the Molalla-Pudding-French Prairie-North Santiam Subbasins was approved in January of 2002, and provides guidance for addressing agricultural water quality issues. View the plan online or contact the Marion SWCD office for a paper copy.

The plan identifies strategies to reduce water pollution from agricultural lands through a combination of education programs, land treatments, management activities, and monitoring. The plan relies on the agricultural community finding proactive, voluntary ways to limit the effects of their operations on local waterways.

The plan applies to agricultural and rural lands outside Urban Growth Boundaries. It does not cover private or public forests managed under the Forest Practices Act. The plan was written by a group of stakeholders, the Local Advisory Committee, with the help of the Marion Soil and Water Conservation District and Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA). The Local Advisory Committee meets periodically to discuss progress implementing the local Agricultural Water Quality Management Area Plan.

The Marion SWCD is a Local Management Agency for our local Area Plan, which means we provide educational and technical services to help meet the goals of the plan. We promote practices that have been well researched and are known to be effective in reducing erosion and polluted runoff when installed correctly. Many of the practices we recommend come from the growers themselves; other recommended practices have been developed by NRCS or OSU Extension Service.

Small improvements in management can reduce a farm’s overall contribution to non-point source pollution, while helping growers meet their goals. Marion SWCD’s grant programs can help farmers adopt practices that minimize erosion and run-off. Marion SWCD’s conservation planners provide free farm and field audits to help landowners determine if any resource concerns should be addressed. They can also evaluate landscape conditions and operations to ensure they support clean water and healthy watersheds. For example, if a landowners has a stream or wetland, does it have adequate vegetation to provide shade, filtration and work to slow runoff velocity?

While ODA is the regulatory authority tasked with enforcing minimum compliance with ag water quality rules under a complaint-driven process, working with the SWCD is completely voluntary. The Marion SWCD has no regulatory authority. By starting a voluntary conservation plan, landowners can better manage their land and receive guidance for staying in compliance with the rules that govern natural resources.

Pesticide Stewardship Program

The Pudding Pesticide Stewardship Partnership (PSP), is one of many PSPs formed and promoted by the Oregon DEQ as a way for local communities to voluntarily support their watershed and industry by identifying and voluntarily reducing chemical impacts to streams to meet water quality criteria and avoid additional agency regulatory actions. The Pudding PSP is a cooperative effort of Marion SWCD, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), OSU Extension Service, Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA), and agricultural businesses and producers.

Since the Pesticide Stewardship Program began in 1999, significant progress has been made in identifying and improving water quality associated with pesticide use at a local level. Oregon DEQ has been sharing pesticide sampling data in the Pudding basin since 2005. The data shows steady reductions in detections or levels for pesticides such as Chlorpyrifos and Guthion (azinphos-methyl).

The Pudding Pesticide Stewardship Program holds educational forums and Agricultural Waste Collection Events. The Waste Collection Events accept “legacy” pesticides such as DDT and Chlordane as well as excess or otherwise unusable restricted-use pesticides. So far, over 100,000 pounds of pesticides have been collected from over 200 participants.