Monday, April 25, 2011

Promoting “voluntary compliance” - The Scott Valley Establishment targets water board members

Bryan McFadden, who works for the North Coast Water Quality Control Board, has been assigned the task of implementing the plan to clean up sediment and temperature pollution in the Scott River Watershed – a major Klamath River tributary. That Plan was adopted by the North Coast Board on January 21, 2006. The Scott River Sediment and Temperature TMDL and Clean-Up Plan identifies the causes of sediment and temperature pollution and what needs to be done to reduce the pollution in order to restore beneficial uses of Scott River water as guaranteed by the Clean Water Act. Those beneficial uses include cold water fisheries, including salmon, steelhead and resident trout.

Timber companies and other landowners who log are now required to maintain shade along streams, develop erosion control plans and comply with waste discharge requirements. While road, landslide and riparian management problems remain, the four large timber companies operating in the Scott Sub-Basin  are moving to satisfy at least the letter of compliance with the Plan. Road management in particular has continued to improve.

A timber company logging road in Scott Valley left open all winter long

Environmental and recreation interests want farmers and ranchers to also be required to retain shade on streams running through their property and to stop livestock from trampling streambanks and defecating in streambeds. Native, sport and commercial fishermen want farmers and ranchers to limit water use in order to keep stream temperature from becoming lethal to salmon and other fish.

So far, however, the North Coast Board has refused to put teeth behind the Clean-Up Plan’s requirements and prohibitions. Instead, on August 9, 2006 the Board adopted a “waiver of waste discharge requirements” for Scott River Basin agriculture.

The Scott Ag Waiver embraces the concept of voluntary compliance (sic) and is implemented through Ag-friendly groups like the Siskiyou RCD and Scott River Watershed Council. That has been the approach for the past four plus years. The waiver has a five year term and sunsets in August. The North Coast Board must either renew the waiver or take other regulatory action with respect to Scott River Basin agricultural operations. And while there has been no systematic evaluation to determine whether voluntary compliance is working, it appears that McFadden and his supervisors are prepared to continue to back the approach favored by the Scott Valley Establishment.

At the urging of Scott Valley agricultural and other leaders, McFadden organized two meetings in the Scott Valley last week. They were designed to convince members of the North Coast Water Quality Board that voluntary compliance is working and therefore that a new waiver should be granted. One North Coast Board member attended as did KlamBlog. So did several members of the local Scott Valley Tea Party which is also known as Protect Our Waters or POW. POW appears to be against clean water regulation as a matter of principle; several T Party speakers challenged the right of government to regulate private property in any manner.

KlamBlog reports on the two workshops below - including how the Scott Valley Establishment tried to persuade North Coast board members that voluntary compliance is working.

 The Scott Valley Tea Party Protests Water Quality Regulation and the UN

Friday, April 15, 2011

Meeting TMDL Levels in the Klamath Basin

TMDL is the technical abbreviation for pollution reduction targets established under the Clean Water Act. Below KlamBlog brings you a special report from John Sully - a member of the Rogue Group of the Sierra Club and a frequent visitor to the Klamath River Basin from his home in the Rogue River Valley. John provides his thoughts about how the newly adopted TMDL clean-up plan for the Klamath River can be implemented effectively. If you have ideas about how to clean up Klamath water quality why not comment on John's report.

from John M. Sully of Ashland, Oregon:

On September 7, 2010 the California State Water Resources Control Board adopted a set of standards for Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL) for the Klamath and Lost Rivers in the Klamath River drainage.  The   Action Plan for the Klamath River Total Maximum Daily Loads addresses Temperature, Dissolved Oxygen, Nutrients, and Microcystin Impairments in the Klamath River in California and Lost River. The action plan was forwarded to the EPA and approved 12/28/2010 under the Clean Water Act section 303 (d) (2).

The Klamath River was declared to be water quality limited in 1996. There has been pressure to get the California State Water Resources Control Board to set TMDL limits ever since.  At least 4 species of fish are listed as rare/endangered in the Klamath Basin and River and tributaries. Recovery of these has been a mandate of the Water Resources Control Board. But declaring the river system to be water quality limited, and setting TMDL limits does not necessarily result in action being taken to clean up the river.

Recover of Four listed species of fish, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act section 303 (d) (2) could be a strong motive for taking action.  Transferring Keno Dam to BOR from PacifiCorp may lead to an environmental review of the proposed Transfer Agreement and/or those of its provisions which are pertinent to Klamath River clean-up under the Basin Plan.  It should happen as the impoundment behind Keno Dam has the accumulation of all pollution of human activity in the Klamath Basin and for which BOR will be responsible after the transfer!

Keno Reservoir receives all Upper Basin Ag and Municipal waste. 
Keno has the worst water quality in the Basin and many opportunities to restore wetlands

Complying with the required TMDL limits does not have to be expensive or complicated!!!  It can be as simple as utilizing existing or constructed wetlands as “cleaners”.  Wetland functions include water storage, ability to remove pollutants by wetland vegetation (obligate wetland and facultative wetland, and facultative plants) growing in the wetlands.  Wetlands will also reduce sedimentation downstream of the wetlands, reduce temperature of the incoming water through shading by the wetland vegetation, reduce erosion by slowing the flow of water, and increase habitat for wetland dependant species, i.e. waterfowl, various invertebrates, amphibians, fishes, etc.

Klamath Basin is an ideal place to establish constructed wetlands, or utilize existing wetlands to meet the TMDL standards.  One example of a treatment wetland would be the Klamath Straits Drain area.  The area is large, flat, and before the inception of the BOR project was a wetland.  Flooding the area would have the effect of reestablishing a wetland.  Modifications probably would have to be made to the “plumbing” to reestablish flow to the river.   But it is a feasible project.

Other possibilities include creation of wetland swales around areas where cattle are grazing, cultivated fields, etc.  Constructed wetlands could be located adjacent to sewage treatment plants for secondary sewage treatment,  as has been done very successfully at the Arcata marshes and in Indio, California.  Dr. Robert Gearhart of Humboldt State University may be available as a consultant in designing treatment wetlands for TMDL clean up.

The use of treatment swales has been successfully used along the I-5 freeway and the coastal route in Orange County in District 7 (Los Angeles) to protect marshes from highway nonpoint source pollution that threatened Marina Del Rey and Anaheim Bay (Bolsa Chica NWR).   The use of constructed/treatment wetlands is a well recognized science by EPA and the National Research Council (see Wetlands Characteristics and Boundaries and Compensating for Wetland Losses Under the Clean Water Act, published by the National Research Council and publications of EPA).

If BOR is sincerely interested in “restoring” the Klamath Basin and doing so in an economical and ecological manner, the use of treatment wetlands/constructed wetlands for reducing pollution from point sources and non point sources would be a way to ease the conflict with the environmental community.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Unraveling the Klamath Bureaucratic Knot: What is the KBCC and what is it up to?

On Thursday April 5th KlamBlog correspondent Felice Pace had the opportunity to attend a meeting of the Klamath Basin Coordinating Council (KBCC) – a group called for in the KBRA Water Deal.  That Deal – which has not been signed by any federal government representative – calls for this group to provide public oversight of Upper Klamath River Basin water management and to be in charge fisheries/watershed restoration basin-wide. But, although its agenda deals entirely with Public Trust Resources, participation in the KBCC is tightly controlled. The entry ticket is an organization’s signature on the KBRA Water Deal and the KHSA Dam Deal.

Because neither the KBRA nor the KBCC have been authorized by Congress, the official function of this group at this point is limited to informing the public about those portions of the KBRA Deal which do not require congressional authorization. Aspects of the Water Deal are being implemented both by “Parties” to the KBRA (that is, those tribes and private organizations which have signed it) and those federal agencies - Department of Interior (BOR, BIA, USFWS, BLM) and the Department of Commerce (NOAA/NMFS) - which created it  Felice reports on those “updates” below.

“Parties” which have signed the KBRA include the Klamath Water Users Association (KWUA), Yurok Tribe, Karuk Tribe, Klamath Tribes, Trout Unlimited, American Rivers, Salmon River Restoration Council Humboldt and Klamath County.

 Mouth of the Klamath River - "Parties" to the KBRA Water deal have yet to meet inside the Klamath River Basin