(a)The long-term economic and environmental sustainability of agriculture is critical to the future of the state, and it is in the interest of the state to enact policies that enhance that sustainability.
(b)High levels of salt and selenium are present in many soils in the state as a result of both natural occurrences and irrigation practices that concentrate their presence in soils.
(c)The buildup of salt and selenium in agricultural soil is an unsustainable practice that degrades soil, harms an irreplaceable natural resource, reduces crop yields and farm income, and poses threats to wildlife.
(d)Salt and selenium buildup can degrade groundwater, especially in areas with perched groundwater aquifers.
(e)Off-farm drainage of irrigation water with high levels of salt and selenium degrades rivers and waterways, particularly the San Joaquin River and its tributaries. This environmental damage presents a clear and imminent danger that warrants immediate action to prevent or mitigate harm to public health and the environment.
(f)Discharge of agricultural drainage water to manmade drains and ponds has resulted in environmental damage, including damage to wildlife. Proposals to discharge agricultural drainage to natural water bodies, including the San Francisco Bay, are extremely expensive and pose threats to the environmental quality of those water bodies.
(g)Water supplies for agricultural irrigation have been reduced significantly in recent years, necessitating increased efforts to use water more efficiently.
(h)Although salt can be collected and managed as a commercial farm commodity, California currently imports salt from other countries.
(i)Integrated on-farm drainage management is a sustainable system of managing salt-laden farm drainage water. Integrated on-farm drainage management is designed to eliminate the need for off-farm drainage of irrigation water, prevent the on-farm movement of irrigation and drainage water to groundwater, restore and enhance the productive value of degraded farmland by removing salt and selenium from the soil, conserve water by reducing the demand for irrigation water, and create the potential to convert salt from a waste product and pollutant to a commercial farm commodity.
(j)Although integrated on-farm drainage management facilities are designed and operated expressly to prevent threats to groundwater and wildlife, these facilities currently may be classified as surface impoundments pursuant to the Toxic Pits Act of 1984, which discourages farmers from using them as an environmentally preferable means of managing agricultural drainage water.
(k)It is the policy of the state to conserve water and to minimize the environmental impacts of agricultural drainage. It is therefore in the interest of the state to encourage the voluntary implementation of sustainable farming and irrigation practices, including, but not limited to, integrated on-farm drainage management, as a means of improving environmental protection, conserving water, restoring degraded soils, and enhancing the economic productivity of farms.