MDEQ to hold hearing on new General Permit for irrigation wells

MDEQ to hold hearing on new General Permit for irrigation wells

“In 2011, the Mississippi Environmental Quality Permit Board issued a five-year General Permit that included acceptable water efficiency practices,” says Kay Whittington, director of MDEQ’s Office of Land and Water Resources. “Since that time, water levels in the MRVA have continued to decline."

The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality has scheduled a public hearing to receive comments on a draft General Permit for wells drawing water out of the Mississippi River Alluvial Aquifer for irrigation, aquaculture and wildlife habitat enhancement.

The hearing, which will be held at the Capps Technology Center, 920 U.S. Highway 82 in Indianola, Miss., at 7 p.m. on April 21, will include some new practices aimed at improving irrigation efficiency in the Mississippi Delta.

“In 2011, the Mississippi Environmental Quality Permit Board issued a five-year General Permit that included acceptable water efficiency practices,” says Kay Whittington, director of MDEQ’s Office of Land and Water Resources. “Since that time, water levels in the MRVA have continued to decline.

“This General Permit follows the same approach as the 2011 permit, but it includes a revised list of acceptable practices that was developed with input from organizations with representatives on the Delta Sustainable Water Resources Task Force to make it a more effective tool for achieving efficient water management.”

A little history may be in order. Under state law, MDEQ is charged with maintaining the water resources contained in the Mississippi River Alluvial Aquifer which underlies the Delta and part-Delta counties of the state.

MDEQ and the other members of the task force – the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Delta Council, Delta F.A.R.M., Mississippi Farm Bureau, Mississippi Soil and Water Conservation Commission, the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta Joint Water Management District and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service – have all been working to slow the decline in the MRVA.

“The draft General Permit limits the volume of water that may be withdrawn and applied per acre at the same levels as previous water use permits,” said Whittington. “The primary changes are the refinement of the acceptable water use efficiency practices that are required to be implemented within two years of obtaining coverage under the General Permit, which will remain in effect for five years.”

The Delta Sustainable Water Resources Task Force was formed in 2011 to serve as a forum for Delta stakeholders to work with MDEQ to develop and promote implementation of strategies to ensure that the Delta will continue to have the water resources necessary to sustain its environment and economy.

In 2014, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant issued Executive Order Number 1341, which formalized and reinforced the importance of the work of the Delta Sustainable Resources Task Force.

“The Task Force has promoted the efficient use of water as the highest priority while other options continue to be evaluated,” said Whittington. “The research and implementation of water use efficiency technologies and practices are a major part of the Task Force strategy.  One way to accomplish this is by making the permit as effective a tool as possible for the most efficient water management technologies and practices.”

Persons may make oral or written comments on the draft General Permit during the public hearing. In addition, written comments may be submitted to Chris Hawkins any time before 5:00 p.m. on May 21, 2016, at the following address or by email at [email protected]:

Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, Office of Land and Water Resources, 700 North State Street, Jackson, Mississippi  39202

For more on the Delta Sustainable Water Resources Task Force, visit http://1.usa.gov/1SbgTCL.

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