Grass growers and a new environmental group are expected to clash tonight at a workshop on new burning regulations .
The Spokane County Air Pollution Control Authority is trying to set rules for the 1996 burning season, which follows the harvest in the region’s bluegrass fields.
The growers want to end limits on the number of acres that each farmer can burn and the overall acreage for the county.
A new citizens group calling itself Save Our Summers wants eventually to eliminate field burning.
In the middle is SCAPCA, which lost much of its authority to restrict the burning season last spring because of changes in state law.
Gone is the agency’s authority to declare a burning season, limit it to 16 consecutive weekdays and ban weekend or holiday burning.
Instead, the Intermountain Grass Growers have agreed to burn only on days with appropriate weather conditions between Aug. 15 and Sept. 30. They will voluntarily refrain from burning on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Labor Day.
In changing the laws, however, the Legislature did not prohibit the agency from limiting the total acreage burned.
Grass growers say they have received assurances for months from the SCAPCA board that limits would be lifted.
They are frustrated that a workshop has been scheduled that could take them “back to square one,” said Martha Dailey, executive secretary for the association.
Spokane County is the only area in the state that limits the acreage to be burned, she said. Growers believe it should be regulated by supply and demand.
The coming season will show that growers will be working with the community to minimize the impacts of burning, she said.
Save Our Summers members are angry that the laws were changed with little warning.
Patricia Hoffman, Valley veterinarian and founder of the group, said public participation in the workshop was important.
“If the public doesn’t show up, SCAPCA will probably rescind the burning cap,” she said.