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Klamath TMDL both supported and opposed at meeting
Grenada, Calif. - The Klamath Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) workshop at Friday’s meeting of the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (NCRWQCB) began with a staff presentation of common themes of the written comments received as well as some misconceptions that had been identified.
TMDLs are set levels of contaminants that are discharged into a river, as well as naturally occurring contaminants, which act as a regulatory tool on those who discharge into rivers and their tributaries.
After the presentation from David Leland of the NCRWQCB, the organization’s board members had time to ask questions about the process. One board member asked how the model was developed for the TMDLs on the Klamath.
Matt St. John, a staff member with the NCRWQCB, said that with respect to the Klamath TMDL model, an agreement was reached between the Environmental Protection Agency and PacifiCorp to utilize a model created by a consultant for PacifiCorp.
St. John said that the consulting firm Tetratech was used to make modifications to the model based on comments from the United States Bureau of Reclamation, as well as various professionals in watershed science.
“We take the concerns about the model seriously,” St. John said. He also explained that recently the United States Geological Survey had expressed concerns about the model.
Another board question was whether or not the Klamath TMDL would change or affect the TMDLs already in place on tributaries such as the Shasta and Scott rivers.
Leland said that the current TMDLs will remain in place until the end of their term in about five years. A follow-up question was asked if there would need to be a new public process if any changes were to be made to those TMDLs, and Leland said that there would be.
The first public commenters to speak were members of the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors, with board chair Michael Kobseff stating that he believes “the current draft does not recognize the achievements of landowners on the Scott and Shasta.”
Kobseff claimed that the draft TMDL does not take into account the contaminants flowing into California from Oregon. He also expressed his desire to see the deadline for commenting extended due to the “uncertainty” surrounding the model.
Supervisors Jim Cook, Marcia Armstrong and Grace Bennett also spoke, voicing concerns about the addition of regulations on agriculture and timber harvest, flooding and the way the draft TMDL is written.
Tom Guarino, Siskiyou County counsel, stated that Siskiyou County objects to the representation of John W. Corbett on the board because of Corbett’s affiliation with the Yurok Tribe, which is one of the groups advocating for dam removal, as the group’s senior legal counsel.
The legal counsel for the NCRWQCB said that a review of Corbett’s affiliation did not find any evidence that he would have a conflict of interest.
Guarino also contested that staff from the NCRWQCB have been involved in the closed-door negotiations regarding the proposed removal of four PacifiCorp dams along the Klamath River. The NCRWQCB’s counsel responded by saying that staff has had limited participation in the meetings, but the agency is not a lead negotiator.
Asked by the board to clarify his statements, Guarino said, “I am leveling the charge that board and staff are inappropriately involved with dam negotiations.”
A number of comments were presented regarding the perceived effects that the speakers believed would come about from implementation of the Klamath TMDL. Mirroring the written comments Leland had summed up, comments were divided between those who wanted to see the TMDLs implemented and those who were opposed.
Jeff Fowle, a member of the Siskiyou County Farm Bureau as well as the Siskiyou County Planning Commission, said, “What this TMDL implies with basin-wide regulation of agriculture activities is unreasonable.”
Fowle stated that a flaw he sees in the model is that it treats the Klamath as a cold water fishery. He said that he believes the Klamath is a “conduit to the ocean and cold water tributaries.” He said that treating the Shasta as a cold water fishery has increased the targeted Coho populations, but Chinook populations in that tributary have decreased.
Fowle also said that he believes that the setting back of international fish boundaries in the 1970s adversely impacted the number of salmon available to spawn, stating that he believes there should be a study to find an accurate ratio of outbound juveniles to incoming spawners.
“Until we get the adults to spawn, we will not have a healthy fishery,” Fowle said.
Kevin Collins, a commercial fisherman, said that up until the mid-1970s the port at Eureka was filled with boats, but now there are none. He claimed that four out of five fishermen in that area had gone out of business due to declining fish numbers.
Collins also disputed Fowle’s claim that international waters had been opened to other nations for fishing.
Collins said, “We should not have to sacrifice for upriver benefit.” However, he said that fishermen appreciate the food provided by farmers, but “we feel we should be able to produce food too.”
The next steps, according to Leland, are to review all comments and prepare written responses, in most cases according to common themes. NCRWQCB staff will also prepare their recommendations for changes to the draft TMDL, which will then be presented to the board.
Page Updated: Saturday September 19, 2009 02:24 AM Pacific
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