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North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board Scott Shasta algae tour
Siskiyou County Supervisor Marcia Armstrong District 5, 8/3/07

Recently the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board held a meeting in Yreka followed the next day by a tour of the Shasta and Scott Valleys. As noted in last week’s Pioneer Press, one of the hot topics was algae – particularly Microcystin Aeruginosa, a species that produces a bacterial toxin. Basically, Siskiyou County Public Health and the state Public Health directors have stated that they do not have enough scientific information on the detrimental health effects of the algae. Statewide health standards on acceptable levels have not been set. They are currently reviewing the issue.

The North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board has gone ahead and posted Copco Lake for algae as a pollutant to beneficial recreational uses, but there is no numerical standard established for algae as a pollutant. Siskiyou County argues that they do not have the authority to declare a health danger – that this is the Public Health Department’s authority.      

Interestingly enough, the Karuk tribe, one of the complainants regarding algae, has been selected to do the collection and analysis of algae samples. This would appear to pose a conflict of interest. The tribe has long claimed that the dams on the Klamath River have slowed river flow creating an environment where algae can grow. They claim that algae has detrimental effects on salmonids as well as people. It is one of the arguments they use for removing the dams.

Felice Pace made sure that the Board was apprised of alleged water quality violations: unfenced cows in Kidder Creek and bulldozer work in one of the ditches. On the following day, he actually stopped our bus like a highwayman to make some point to Regional Board staff.

The hearing pointed out that land users are facing an onslaught of regulations: (1) Existing requirements for section 401-404 Army Corps/Clean Water Act permits for dredge and fill in a stream or wetland – including the operation of “push up” gravel dams; (2) The new TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load) requirements for pollutants in the Scott and Shasta Rivers. (The Scott is listed for sediment and temperature pollutants. The Shasta is listed for low dissolved oxygen levels and temperature. Additionally, the TMDLs  for the Klamath River will address high nutrient levels, low dissolved oxygen and temperature levels;) (3) Possible new regulations and permits for activities causing sediment and affecting riparian areas.

The bus tour was enlightening. I sat next to one of the Regional Board members and behind a staffer. It was interesting to hear their take on the information presented and I was able to contribute some history on some of the things we saw. In Shasta Valley, we visited Dwinnell dam and then followed the main irrigation delivery system through the valley. We drove by tailwater capture ponds at Stan Sears’ ranch. We stopped and viewed the system Don Meamber has for capturing field irrigation runoff and recirculating it by pumps to irrigate his ranch. The process reduces the amount of warm water entering the Shasta River. We viewed riparian plantings and a USGS weir that poses a migration barrier. 

In Scott Valley, the buses stopped to look at Moffett Creek. Board staff discussed the sediment problems in the creek, bank erosion and the loss of riparian vegetation. (Allegedly, the sediment in Moffett Creek can cause a muddy plume that extends all the way down to the Klamath River.) Staff talked about success they were having in fixing the problem with the local Moffett Creek landowner’s group. They also mentioned their partnership with the Scott River Watershed Council in getting information to landowner’s and conducting outreach to get landowner’s involved in possible projects.                  

The tour stopped at French Creek to show how the French Creek Watershed Group and Siskiyou Resource Conservation District’s efforts to control sediment had affected the stream. “Before” pictures highlighted the sand bars that had existed on the site, limiting rearing habitat. People on the tour were able to see juvenile steelhead currently at the site, which were darting among rocks in the shade.  

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