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Upper Santa Margarita Irrigated Lands Group


The Upper Santa Margarita Irrigated Lands Group is a runoff monitoring group that has been organized to assist property owners of irrigated farmland in complying with new water quality regulations being mandated by the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board. These new regulations will affect any property owner that produces or expects to produce $1000 dollars of gross income from agriculture or nursery products during any given year.

The San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board adopted the Agriculture Waiver Program in 2007, which requires growers to pay for sampling and water quality testing at specific locations in a watershed region. The mandates set by the Regional Water Quality Control Board require that all property owners with irrigated farm or nursery land within the Santa Margarita Watershed comply with the new testing and reporting requirements. Since membership in a monitoring group is optional, it is up to each property owner to (i) either enroll in a monitoring group, or (ii) file a Notice of Intent providing a detailed individual monitoring plan, before January 1, 2011. If a property owner has not fulfilled one of the two previous options by January 1st, they will be “non-compliant” and will be subject to fines or other sanctions set forth by the Regional Board. Growers are encouraged to participate in a membership group in order to share the high cost, instead of each grower bearing the financial burden on their own.

The Upper Santa Margarita Irrigated Lands Group (USMILG) is not associated with the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board, nor is it acting as an enforcement agent of the Regional Board. A primary purpose of this non-profit 501(c)(3) monitoring group is to assist property owners in complying with the new monitoring regulations. If your property is located within USMILG’s service area, you are eligible to join the USMILG monitoring group and participate in the collective monitoring being organized by the group.

There is an initial enrollment fee applicable to all participants that will cover administrative and operational costs through the preliminary phases of organizing the group and hiring a consulting firm to design the monitoring plan. There is also a per acre fee applied to irrigated acreage which will cover the actual monitoring costs of developing and implementing the plan. All fees are determined by the board of directors of USMILG and are subject to review as USMILG’s budget dictates.


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The Howie Award