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Floodgates open in Conn. for permitting, water conservation

Floodgates open in Conn. for permitting, water conservation

Joyner, Joel

FARMINGTON, Conn. – Superintendents here and across the state are getting another chance to comply before officials crack down on courses without water diversion permits.

The floodgates opened when a new Public Act for compliance was passed by the Connecticut General Assembly. It involved golf courses that use a private water supply for irrigation and have not registered for state permits for water diversions.

The Connecticut Water Diversion Policy Act, first initiated in 1982, requires any person or municipality pumping more than 50,000 gallons of ground or surface water a day to register each diversion. The state’s Department of Environmental Protection estimates that there are at least 75 golf courses throughout the state – old and new – diverting water without authorization.

If courses fail to at least begin the application process by July 1, 2003, officials are going to get tough — threatening a variety of enforcement actions. “Our intention is to reach out to superintendents and help them understand what they need to do to comply – without penalty – with newly enacted state laws,” said Carla Feroni, environmental analyst for the Inland Water Resources Division of the DEP.

COMPLIANCE IS NO PICNIC

Unfortunately, even voluntary compliance is no picnic. Superintendent Tim O’Neill at the Country Club of Darien first became aware of his club’s need for a water diversion permit in July of last year when he went before his local environmental board to gain approval to expand his existing irrigation water holding pond.

“We had no idea a water permit was required bylaw,” said O’Neill. “One of the worst parts was learning that it may take three years to go through the full permitting process and run $30,000 to $40,000 in engineering fees.”

So that the CC of Darien could continue to irrigate for those three years – without a permit – they signed a consent order to abide by a series of conditions:

* Limit the course’s water use to 288,000 gallons a day;

* Meter and record water use on a daily basis from all water diversions;

* Provide pumping records and progress reports to the DEP annually;

* Retain a consultant during the consent order; and

* Conduct environmental analyses and evaluations.

The analyses and evaluations required: evaluating the impact, if any, on the fisheries habitat in the Goodwives River which flows through the property; conduct a hydrogeologic analysis of any existing well or proposed well to ensure it poses no threat to surrounding homeowner wells; and provide a comprehensive evaluation of the irrigation system, documenting water use needs as well as a conservation plan. The consent order also requires that the DEP be allowed to visit the golf course at any time to review records.

BEST MANAGEMENT PRACTICES

As challenging as the permitting process is, superintendents in the state have not been daunted. At a conference held in October at the Country Club of Farmington, information was made available on the state’s water resources and how water diversion legislation will affect Connecticut golf courses.

Attendees also heard presentations about hydrology, efficient irrigation and irrigation system audits, the DEP permitting process and how to hire a consultant. The DEP’s newly drafted Best Management Practices (BMP) was also made available for comment.

Heather Garvin, superintendent at the Canton Public Golf Course, was one of the four superintendents on the committee that developed the BMP document. “It originally was about conserving water, but we also added information on maintaining water quality,” she said.

The committee was made up of DEP staff members, irrigation engineers, educators, and environmental associations and consultants, according to Garvin. “We provided input on how we use

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water on a golf course, the cultural practices, and how we can save water through our management practices,” she said. “The document is to be a tool for golf course superintendents to use, and our participation was to make sure it was focused towards us.”

Though comprehensive, the document shouldn’t be considered a final work, said Garvin. “In a couple of years, or maybe annually, I’d like to see it updated,” she said. “Especiallywhen we get feed– back from superintendents or as new technology becomes available to us.”

COMPREHENSIVE FOCUS

John Ruzsbatzky, superintendent here at the CC of Farmington, also was on the committee. “The document concentrates on both the supply and demand side of water quantity, and water quality covers everything from evaluating the conditions that exist on a golf course right down to spill response and waste management plans,” he said.

“A lot of the issues in the BMP are fairly consistent with Integrated Pest Management practices,” said Ruzsbatzky. “The research was in-depth, including investigating what other states had implemented and the broad scope of the people involved on the committee.”

At the CC of Farmington, which obtained its water diversion permit back in 1983, the new legislation has proven to be a logistical issue. “We’re constantly making upgrades to our existing irrigation system,” Ruzsbatzky said. “Ibe DEP is making a friendly push to have people come in to compliance rather than going out and targeting those who are not in compliance.”

Portions of this article were previously published in the Metropolitan Golf Course Superintendents Association’s Tee To Green magazine, July/August 2001 issue.

Copyright United Publications, Inc. Nov 2001

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