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Supervisors discuss comments to Klamath TMDL plan
Yreka, Calif. - A heated discussion took place Tuesday at a well-attended special meeting of the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors. The meeting was called to discuss the county’s final comments to the Draft TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load) analysis and action plan for the Klamath Basin released by the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board.
“Basically, under this plan, farmers and ranchers are going to have to prove their innocence,” Siskiyou County Natural Resource Policy Specialist Ric Costales said. “It’s not like a few polluters can be found and charged with a crime; this will affect everybody.”
He went on to say that the plan could put all agricultural activities under the same restrictions as logging. The plan would set allocations for various impairments to water quality, including sediments, nutrients, low dissolved oxygen, temperature and microcystins from algae blooms.
The Draft TMDL and action plan was released in June, and the public comment period is scheduled to end this week.
“There’s not going to be fees,” Costales added, “but there will be added expenses,” in regard to the waivers that the water board intends to issue to most farmers and ranchers. Some permits may be required, he said.
The TMDL allocations and action plan will be implemented on a watershed-wide basis, Costales explained, including the main stem of the Klamath River, reservoirs created by dams, the Lost, Shasta, Scott, Salmon and Trinity rivers and smaller tributaries.
The tributary allocations address riparian shade, sediment-related stream channel alterations and nutrient controls, with a focus on activities associated with road construction and maintenance, irrigated agriculture, timber harvest and grazing.
The plan includes actions to protect thermal refugia, which are areas of cold water typically at the mouths of tributaries that provide refuge for migrating or young fish.
Costales spoke of the potential for major impacts to Siskiyou County, including the natural resource industries, county roads, agriculture, land ownership and management and, he said, “even to the social fabric of our communities.
“By virtue of the overwhelming magnitude of the draft proposals, it is imperative that Siskiyou County make official comment on the Draft TMDL,” Costales said. “That can only be done through board action.”
Additional comments concerning the Draft TMDL were made by the supervisors and by members of the audience, which consisted mostly of farmers, ranchers and suction dredge miners. Not a single person present at the meeting spoke in favor of any portion of the Draft TMDL analysis and action plan.
Supervisor Marcia Armstrong could not be present at the meeting, but sent along 19 pages of comments.
“The Klamath TMDL fails to meet standards of ‘reasonableness,’” Armstrong claimed. “The TMDL poses regulations that largely promote the beneficial use of cold water fisheries to the detriment and exclusion of other uses of those waters and adjacent lands for agriculture, mining activities, hydropower dams, timber harvest and road use.”
She added that the proposed plan does not take into “consideration and balance” the impacts of the proposed regulations on local economies, community well-being or the “needs and continued viability of other existing uses.”
Armstrong asked the water board to take into consideration that Siskiyou County is an economically depressed area and its economy is primarily agricultural.
“Agriculture is a highly important beneficial use of water in this area,” she said. “Agriculture, timber and mining all contribute to our economy and are historic factors in our cultural heritage and social fabric.. Cold water fishing in the Klamath River system of Siskiyou County is only a very, very minor contributor to our economy.”
Klamath National Forest Supervisor Patty Grantham spoke at the meeting, along with natural resource staff officer John Schuyler.
“All rivers in the KNF are listed as impaired as to temperature and sediment,” Schuyler said. “We know all about TMDLs. It’s layer upon layer of regulatory action.”
Schuyler said he feels that much of the TMDL is “untenable.” He added that little or no acknowledgement is made of the measures already being taken in the KNF to achieve clean water goals.
“The additional paperwork, reporting, etc., is taking funds away from actually fixing things in the KNF,” said Grantham.
Director of Public Works Scott Sumner said that the county’s road department is already doing about all that it can in regard to keeping sediment out of the waterways.
“I think it [the TMDL plan] is too far-reaching,” he said. “This document contradicts itself; the science is not there.”
Supervisor Jim Cook asked Costales if there is any other area in the state where this waiver/permit process is being done in response to a TMDL analysis and plan.
“No,” replied Costales.
“Is this a rogue regional water board?” asked Cook.
“This is unprecedented,” said Costales.
“I think it would be an excellent idea to join in with the Siskiyou Resource Conservation District in their lawsuit,” Cook said. “We need to strongly consider being part of that. I think we need to coordinate all other comments in with our comments.”
“What happens if we just say no?” Supervisor Grace Bennett asked rhetorically.
“This is too far-reaching,” said Supervisor Ed Valenzuela.
Board Chair Michael Kobseff spoke about trying to set up a meeting between the county board of supervisors and the regional water board’s directors.
“The water board looks to us to cooperate and validate their efforts in Siskiyou County,” Kobseff said, “but it’s difficult for me to cooperate with something that keeps changing. We need to comment about ocean conditions. The overlap of the Klamath TMDL with the Scott and Shasta TMDLs is unacceptable. Too much work has already been done.”
Jim Foley, a Klamath River dredge miner, pointed out that material “coming out of the dredge” is classified as waste by the TMDL document.
“This paragraph also mentions ‘excess sediment,’” he said. “Material that is processed through a suction dredge produces no ‘excess’ sediment or any other substance that was not already in the river.”
“I would encourage the county to go to court,” Foley continued, “because these TMDL processes are going to be crammed down our throats regardless of the comments.”
Montague rancher Rex Houghton said, “I think it’s time we just send them home.
“We’ve already given them everything. Let’s tell them no, reject the whole thing,” he suggested.
Dale Jenner of the Jenner Cattle Company in Etna discussed the difficulties of making a living in agriculture already with existing excessive regulations.
“The Klamath TMDL is out of balance in the way it relates to everything but fish,” he said, and urged the board to “stand up for the rights of farmers and ranchers.”
Paul Chapman, a timberlands manager, said the water board is exceeding its authority. He said he works in timberlands with streams that don’t even flow into the Klamath, but that “they would still fall under these regulations.”
Jim Morris, representing the Siskiyou County Farm Bureau, said that environmental regulations must be based upon peer-reviewed science and that the Klamath TMDL process fails that test. He said the same procedures should be used as in civil court cases.
“Farm Bureau will back the county,” he said.
Dr. Richard Gierak claimed that the largest run of salmon ever recorded on the Klamath River was in 1928, well after the installation of the dams.
Jeff Fowle of Etna, who has worked with fisheries and TMDLs since 1992, said, “This is probably the poorest excuse I’ve seen for a water quality document. It places more weight on cold water fisheries than any other uses. It’s a slap in the face.”
Nadine Bailey, a staff representative for State Senator Sam Aanestad attended the meeting and took careful notes.
“There is no oversight over the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board,” she said.
The supervisors voted 4-0 to instruct natural resource policy specialist Ric Costales to finish preparing comments incorporating the board’s findings and to submit them to the water board in a timely fashion.
Page Updated: Monday August 31, 2009 03:11 AM Pacific
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