1. Call to Order.
Directors Amoroso, Comstock and Siedman present; directors Godino and Smith absent.
3. Community Expression.
4. Request for BCPUD to Approve a Landowner Agreement Required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service for a Grant Under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program to Implement Conservation Practices on the BCPUD Lands Leased by Gospel Flats Farms. (M. Murch).
Mickey explained that he would like permission from the BCPUD to implement soil conservation practices on the land he is leasing from the district. Specifically, he needs this permission to obtain a grant from the USDA to fund the placement of compost and straw to amend the soil and control erosion, as well as the planting of hedgerow to serve as a windbreak. He noted that these activities are consistent with the recommendations of the Sewer Pond Lands Committee. In response to questions from director Amoroso, he clarified that the hedgerow will be native plants as designated by the Sewer Pond Lands Committee. Director Siedman inquired whether the permission of the BCPUD is necessary for the grant approval because it is the landowner; Mickey said that is correct. Staff clarified that the specific permitted activities (composting and planting of hedgerow) are the only activities being approved under the landowner agreement and only for the term of the lease.
Director Siedman noted that director Godino joined the meeting via telephone at approximately 10:05 a.m.
Janine Aroyan said she hopes the BCPUD will pay for erosion control measures on the leased parcels. Mickey said he has the resources to do this and would like to make his best efforts before asking the BCPUD for funding. In response to questions from director Amoroso as to why she has concerns about erosion, Janine explained that during a site visit of the Sewer Pond Lands Committee to Parcel C, Jeff Creque had advised certain erosion control measures for the southern border. Staff reported that the site was evaluated today during the rain storm and should be addressed fairly easily; the same concerns arose previously on Parcel B in a prior year and the erosion control measures taken there have been modified and are now effective. Mickey said he would go to the site following the meeting to address any issues.
Director Amoroso asked Mickey if the background grant documents other than the landowner agreement are available for the Board’s review and he asked why the Board was not approached about the need for this approval earlier. He expressed concern that the Board is being asked to make a fast decision that it might regret and that additional time should have been allowed for public input on this request. Mickey explained that he was told only within the last few days by the USDA that a landowner agreement would be required for the grant funding. He said he submitted paperwork many weeks ago to the USDA, but was not asked until a few days ago to also provide a signed landowner agreement; he immediately notified staff of the USDA’s request, which is why a special meeting was called. Director Amoroso reiterated his concern that the public might perceive that the BCPUD is rushing this through. In response to a question from director Siedman, Mickey said the grant is for up to $20,000; he will be reimbursed for the soil conservation practices that he proves (via receipts and photographs) that he implements on the lands he farms. Mickey clarified that the funding will provide money for soil conservation practices on all of the lands he farms, not only the BCPUD parcels. Director Comstock asked whether Mickey will lose the grant if the BCPUD does not provide the landowner agreement; Mickey said yes, he would not receive the grant to implement the soil conservation practices on BCPUD lands if he cannot provide the agreement. He explained that the funds are coming from the organic farming provisions of the newly passed federal Farm Bill.
Director Amoroso inquired whether the funding application documents are available for the Board’s review. Mickey explained that the documents are all on-line; he said he would be happy to provide copies. Director Comstock said that the Board is satisfied with the truthfulness of Mickey’s explanation of the grant documentation; however, he noted that director Amoroso is concerned there could be something worrisome in the grant documents apart from what Mickey has described. In light of the grant time constraints, he suggested the Board delegate to staff the task of reviewing the grant documents to confirm that Mickey’s representations are consistent with the grant documents. He noted that the Board can condition its approval of the landowner agreement on this step. Director Godino expressed strong support for a funding program that reimburses farmers for sustainable farming practices and said this is exactly the type of activity the Board should approve. Janine Aroyan also said she supports the grant and the specific conservation practices it will fund on the BCPUD lands; she said she would like the Board to approve the agreement today as it can always retract its permission if something of concern occurs. After a brief discussion, the Board requested that Mickey provide copies of all available grant documentation as quickly as possible so that the BCPUD can confirm that there is nothing in that documentation that is inconsistent with the lease agreement or Mickey’s representations about the grant program.
V. Amoroso/L. Comstock four in favor, director Smith absent to approve the landowner agreement on the condition that staff confirms that the grant documentation, when available, is consistent with Mickey’s representations and is consistent with the approved activities on BCPUD lands.
3. Community Expression.
Director Siedman said that after the meeting was adjourned there was a request to re-open the meeting for a discussion under Community Expression. Director Comstock requested clarification on the BCPUD process with regard to nominal expenses to address things such as erosion control on BCPUD property. Staff said that if there are consequences to BCPUD lands as a result of a lessee’s farming activities, those consequences should be the responsibility of the lessee. Mickey Murch agreed, and said he already would have implemented erosion control measures such as seeding, but when the Sewer Pond Lands Committee process started last Fall, he decided as it seemed the committee may have specific instructions as to what type of seeding should be done. He emphasized that he takes full responsibility for remediating any area of concern, but does not want to do so and then be criticized for his efforts; he wants to ensure that his plans are acceptable and said he welcomes a meeting on site to discuss the placement of wattles, compost, straw, seeding or whatever means is deemed best to control eroision. After a brief discussion, it was agreed that Jeff Creque, Janine Aroyan and Mickey Murch would coordinate on erosion control efforts. Director Siedman noted that the committee process otherwise may take too long as it is important to address any erosion concerns as quickly as possible.