Water regs now apply to ranchers | PostIndependent.com

Water regs now apply to ranchers

Post Independent Photo/Kelley CoxGarfield County ranch and land owners listen intently to a presentation by the Colorado Division of Water Resources on water rights pertaining to livestock at the New Castle Community Center Wednesday. Front row, left to right, water commissioner Jim Lemon, Dr. Jim Campbell, Dr. Carter Jackson and Joe Dice.

Ranchers were put on notice at Ag Day last week to control wastewater runoff from livestock pens. Ag Day is an annual forum for area ranchers and farmers who hear presentations from a variety of experts in agriculture. This year’s topics ranged from noxious weed control programs to water rights.Environmental consultant Paul Brink of Lafayette said new water quality regulations governing animal feed lots could affect ranchers who pen 300 or more beef cattle or more than 150 horses. Animals must be confined for more than 45 days over a 12 month period in a space with no significant vegetation or forage. The regulations require large and medium feed lot operators to have a state wastewater discharge permit and periodic water quality inspections. “Environmental regulations are about as popular as having your wisdom teeth out,” Brink said.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the state adopted the regulations, designed to control water pollution at feed lots. The rules become effective June 30.The regulations also introduce a new category, a medium concentrated animal feeding operation, defined as having a minimum of 300 beef cattle or 150 horses, small enough to apply to livestock operations in Garfield County.In addition, medium CAFOs contribute pollutants such as manure into surface water flowing through the penning area. Medium CAFOs are also subject to the new regulations requiring a wastewater discharge permit. The new regulations cover animal feeding operations but do not require a permit. Rather, AFOs must adopt best management practices to ensure. The intent of the regulations Brink said, is to including divert surface water away from the pens using fences, ditches or dikes.

Brink advised ranchers to avoid being classified as medium CAFOs and having to acquire a permit by following the prescribed best management practices that ensure water near livestock operations is not polluted.He also warned “that anyone can report you to the state.” Two options are available: “You can get a permit or correct the situation,” he said. “Get livestock out of the stream, first thing,” Brink said. “Store manure away from surface water and divert through-water away from the pen.”He also urged his audience to properly dispose of dead animals, which means burying them away from a creek. He suggested burying them with moldy hay, which will help compost the carcass.

Other best management practices include frequently collecting manure and storing it in a pile away from water sources or installing settling ponds to separate solid waste; keeping water tanks repaired so they don’t leak and protecting groundwater by making sure drinking wells are uphill of and at least 150 feet away from pens.There is also help for ranchers and farmers. The Colorado Livestock Association’s AFO Program will cost-share up to $5,000 for environmental improvements. The Colorado Cattlemen’s Association Water Quality Program will also fund up to the first $5,000 of a project and conduct an on-site inspection to determine what’s needed.Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. 510dgray@postindependent.com

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