The Central Coast Water Board has the authority to implement and enforce water quality laws, regulations, policies, and plans to protect groundwater and surface waters of the State. Timely and consistent enforcement of these laws is critical to the success of the Irrigated Lands Program and to ensure that the people of the State have clean water. The State Water Board’s Water Quality Enforcement Policy (Enforcement Policy) defines the enforcement process followed to address violations. The goal of the Enforcement Policy is to protect and enhance the quality of the waters of the State by defining an enforcement process that addresses water quality problems in the most fair, efficient, effective, and consistent manner.
The Enforcement Policy describes progressive enforcement action for violations of waste discharge requirements when appropriate. Progressive enforcement is an escalating series of actions that allows for the efficient and effective use of enforcement resources to 1) assist cooperative growers in achieving compliance; 2) compel compliance for repeat violations and recalcitrant violators; and 3) provide a disincentive for noncompliance. Progressive enforcement actions may begin with informal enforcement actions such as a verbal, written, or electronic communication between the Central Coast Water Board and a grower. The purpose of an informal enforcement action is to quickly bring the violation to the grower’s attention and to give the grower an opportunity to return to compliance as soon as possible. The highest level of informal enforcement is a Notice of Violation.
The Enforcement Policy recommends formal enforcement as a first response to more significant violations including the highest priority violations, chronic violations, and/or threatened violations. Violations of the Agricultural Order that will be considered a priority include, but are not limited to:
- Failure to obtain required regulatory coverage;
- Failure to achieve numeric limits;
- Falsifying information or intentionally withholding information required by applicable laws, regulations, or an enforcement order;
- Failure to monitor or provide complete and accurate information as required;
- Failure to pay annual fees, penalties, or liabilities; and
- Failure to submit required reports on time.
Water Code section 13350 provides that any person who violates waste discharge requirements may be 1) subject to administrative civil liability imposed by the Central Coast Water Board or State Water Board in an amount of up to $5,000 per day of violation, or up to $10 per gallon of waste discharged; or 2) subject to civil liability imposed by a court in an amount of up to $15,000 per day of violation, or up to $20 per gallon of waste discharged. Water Code 13268 provides that any person failing or refusing to submit technical or monitoring program reports as required by Water Code section 13267 or falsifying any information provided therein, is guilty of a misdemeanor, and may be subject to penalties up to $1,000 per day of violation. The actual calculation and determination of administrative civil penalties must be consistent with the Enforcement Policy and the Porter-Cologne Act.
Consistent with the Water Board’s Policy for Implementation and Enforcement of the Nonpoint Source Pollution Control Program (NPS Policy), the ineffectiveness of a third-party program through which a grower participates in nonpoint source control efforts cannot be used as a justification for lack of individual grower compliance. Growers continue to be responsible for complying with the Agricultural Order individually.