Friday, June 27, 2014

Will Changes to "Waters of the U.S." Float Your Boat?

The need to update you on the EPA and Army Corp of Engineers proposed changes to “Waters of the U.S.” is great, but honestly I have focused on that frequently in many newsletters lately.  So this time I go off topic, sort of.  What I will focus on the unseen value GCSAA brings to you.  Not from my perspective, but from that of a GCSAA Class A member. How does a member go from newly appointed chapter president to an invited guest for a meeting with EPA District 1 within six days?  Let us look at a timeline on how that happened and where value plays a role:

  • June 9-11: GCSAA’s Chava McKeel, associate director, government relations attended meetings in Washington, D.C., relating to Clean Water Act, pesticide regulations, labor issues and more.
  • June 13: The Vermont Agency of Agriculture representative contacted McKeel (the connection was made earlier that week in D.C.), informing her of an EPA site visit to Vermont to discuss proposed changes to the “Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS).” They asked if there was a GCSAA representative who could attend?
  • June 14-16: Communications continued through weekend and into early following week.
  • June 17: I was invited to the meeting.
  • June 18: Board of Directors meeting with VtGCSA, which was GCSAA Class A member Jason Shattie’s first as chapter president.  During the meeting, an Email arrived offering an invitation for a Vermont superintendent to participate in the EPA meeting.  Shattie, as president, accepted the invitation
  • June 23: McKeel and I discussed WOTUS and the ramifications on the golf industry via conference call.
  • June 24: EPA Meeting Day. Shattie and I met at his facility (Burlington Country Club) in the early afternoon to discuss WOTUS and the ramifications to his facility and the golf industry. That evening, approximately 40 people met with EPA and Vermont State Department of Agriculture at University of Vermont.
  • June 25: I followed up with a visit to BCC during a rain event registering over 1.0 inches of precipitation.

Shattie’s Burlington CC is not unlike many golf courses across the country.  The property is part of a storm water runoff plan, including the surrounding neighborhood and the adjacent UVM campus.  This increased flow of water during periods of average and above-average rainfall causes more than the usual issues when it rains. The proposed changes to WOTUS are destined to create a significant burden at BCC.  The inclusion of these “ephemeral waters” may create an issue at most golf courses.  Originally designed to move water off the playing surfaces to underground drainage, surface drainage ditches, or into small waterways through out of play areas, these areas may now require a federal National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit to apply chemicals to.  In Shattie’s case, both of the following pictures represent areas that could fit the above profile:

Both areas require the responsible use of pesticides.  The permit will be expensive and take time to apply for and receive, if granted.  These will both affect the operations at his facility.  If these pictures represent similar areas at your facility, you could be impacted as well.

As the above timeline shows, actions being taken that you do not see can be impactful, and have tremendous value. Golf’s representation at that EPA meeting in Vermont left an impression on those in the state and at EPA; golf course superintendents are engaged in protecting the property we are entrusted to maintain. These efforts, in addition to communicating golf course superintendents as environmental stewards, are promoting golf as a solution, not the problem. The opportunity given to one member to learn about the challenges to golf with the new Waters of the U.S. and become engaged has given our industry an extremely motivated individual working to protect our profession. Could the next engaged member be you?


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