Update: State Water Board Adopts Final Winery General Order

Stoel Rives - California Environmental Law

At its January 20, 2021 Board meeting, the State Water Resources Control Board (“SWRCB” or “Board”) adopted its final General Waste Discharge Requirements (“WDRs”) for Winery Process Water (“Winery Order”) and associated Resolution for the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) Mitigated Negative Declaration.

As a brief background, on July 3, 2020 the SWRCB released a draft Winery Order to the public for comment (see: July 15, 2020 blogpost on proposed General Order and July 20, 2020 blogpost on noticed stakeholder meetings).  The July 3, 2020 draft incorporated feedback from stakeholders regarding administrative draft documents circulated in 2019.  On November 12, 2020 we posted an Update to our prior blog article regarding the SWRCB’s issuance of a revised notice rescheduling the date of its November 17, 2020 Board meeting to December 15, 2020.  Since that time, on December 2, 2020, Board staff publicly transmitted a revised draft Winery Order and draft CEQA Initial Study and Mitigated Negative Declaration. Notable revisions in the December 2, 2020 iteration of the draft Winery Order were made in response to comments received and include changes to design flow ranges used to determine tier designations for coverage under the Winery Order and technical requirements related thereto, among other changes.

Between December 3, 2020 and January 19, 2021, Board staff published various public notices regarding the dates for the Board’s consideration of the Winery Order as well as extended the ex parte deadline.  Further, on the evening of January 19, 2021, the day before the rescheduled Winery Order Board meeting, Board staff issued a Winery Order Change Sheet Number 1, which revised the draft Winery Order, and included: clarification that the discharger tier designation determination turns on the facility’s process water flow, as opposed to its “design” flow (as the December 2, 2020 draft Order stated); revisions to the Local Agency Oversight Findings section; and, most significantly, provided the addition of an elective area-wide groundwater monitoring program to be approved by the regional water board.

During the January 20, 2021 Board meeting, the Board received a large number of public comments on the draft Winery Order, many of which focused on the costs to Dischargers associated with implementing and complying with the Winery Order, discharger tier designations (these comments centered particularly on the appropriate discharge flow range for Tiers 3 and 4), and involved the area-wide groundwater monitoring program. Last-minute changes were made to the Winery Order towards the end of the Board meeting to reflect Board discussion and deliberation, and to respond to public comments received at the meeting. These last-minute revisions (more particularly identified in the Winery Change Sheet Number 2) will be reflected in the Final Adopted Winery Order, and center primarily on nitrate effluent limitations for the respective tier-designations and area-wide groundwater monitoring requirements.

The final Resolution adopted by the Board for the CEQA Mitigated Negative Declaration for the Waste Discharge Requirements for Winery Process Water and associated Final General Order have yet to be posted by the SWRCB, but will be available to the public soon on the SWRCB’s Winery Order webpage.  On January 28, 2021, the Board scheduled a workshop regarding stakeholder fees associated with the Final Adopted Winery Order for 9am on March 9, 2021.

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Stoel Rives - California Environmental Law
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