Local Ag Water Quality Area Management Plan

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.

The plan identifies strategies to reduce water pollution from agricultural lands through a combination of education programs, land treatments, management activities, and monitoring. It is intended that the agricultural community themselves find ways to produce but not pollute.

The plan generally 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 is based on proactive, voluntary efforts to improve water quality by agricultural producers, and 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 plan relies on the agricultural community finding ways to limit the effects of their operations on local waterways. Often, cropping systems and industries will provide their own answers and ways that make practical sense to them. The Marion SWCD promotes practical, workable Best Management Practices with our grant programs to encourage practices designed to minimize non-point source pollution to water resources.

The Marion SWCD is a Local Management Agency for our local Area Plan, and we are tasked to provide educational and technical services to help meet the goals of the plan. We promote practical practices to reduce soil erosion and polluted runoff that sometimes we adopt or modify from ideas that come from the growers themselves and pass along to others who may benefit. Other practices we recommend come from technical resources developed by NRCS or OSU Extension that have been well researched and are known to be effective in reducing polluted runoff when installed correctly.

Small improvements in management can immensely improve a farm’s overall contribution of non-point source pollution, so we work with grower’s on their goals to find areas where we can provide practical recommendations.

The District is responsible for assisting growers to meet Area Plan objectives, and the ODA is the regulatory authority to enforce minimum compliance under a complaint-driven process. Copies of the plan are available at the Marion SWCD office or online at ODA’s website.

Marion SWCD is always available to provide free farm and field audits to help landowners determine if there are any Resource Concerns they should be addressing, and if they have a stream or wetland if it has adequate vegetation to provide shade, filtration and work to slow runoff velocity.

Once identified, SWCD planners can make recommendations for the farm or property that could mitigate or correct these any observed Resource Concerns. They can also evaluate landscape conditions and management operations to help ensure that they support clean water and healthy watersheds. Working with the SWCD is completely voluntary, the Marion SWCD has no regulatory authority. By starting a local Voluntary Conservation Plan, landowners can better manage their land. The SWCD can also provide guidance for staying in compliance with applicable rules and regulations governing our natural resources.

Pesticide Stewardship Program

The Marion Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) has partnered with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), OSU Extension, the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA), agricultural businesses and producers to identify and voluntarily reduce sources of off-target chemical inputs to local streams.

This cooperative partnership, 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 reducing chemical impacts to streams to meet water quality criteria and avoid additional agency regulatory actions.

Since these efforts began in 1999, there have been significant steps forward in identifying and improving water quality associated with pesticide use at a local level. Oregon DEQ has been sharing results of pesticide sampling in the Pudding basin with stakeholders since 2005, and with the participation of partners and the agricultural community, there have been steady reductions in detections or levels for some of the pesticides of concern in the basin such as the insecticides Chlorpyrifos and Guthion (azinphos-methyl).

As a result of this partnership effort, Marion SWCD has been involved in many educational forums to outreach practical Best Management Practices and Integrated Pest Management. We have also co-sponsored and partnered in five Agricultural Waste Collection Events, where “legacy” pesticides such as DDT and Chlordane as well as excess or unusable restricted-use pesticides were disposed of at no cost to the participant. All five events combined collected in excess of 100,000 lbs. of pesticides from over 200 participants.

Water Quality

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 known baseline water quality conditions. The Pudding basin is one of the most intensely farmed agricultural subbasins in the Willamette Valley. 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 LASAR database, it also was used in the 2008 Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) allocations in the Molalla/Pudding basin by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

The Marion SWCD also continues to actively participate in meetings with the Local Advisory Committee and ODA at periodic meetings to update and advise on progress implementing our local Agricultural Water Quality Management (AgWQM) Area Plan, which provides guidance for addressing agricultural water quality issues in the Molalla-Pudding-French Prairie-North Santiam Subbasins.

The Area Plan identifies strategies to reduce water pollution from agricultural lands through a combination of education programs, suggested land treatments, management activities, and monitoring. Marion SWCD is ready to assist any local stakeholders with a Voluntary Conservation Plan for their operations that meets Area Plan objectives. We also have resources and programs to assist with the costs of implementing these recommended Best Management Practices.