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Support, concern and questions expressed at TMDL workshop 

By David Smith, Siskiyou Daily News January 29, 2010
Yreka, Calif. - The North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (WQCB) heard comments on Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) Wednesday on its way toward the completion of an implementation plan that will set new standards for pollution discharge into the Klamath River.

The comment protocol followed similar patterns of previous meetings, with county government representatives giving their input first, followed by tribal interests, private stakeholders and then individuals from the public.

• Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors Chair Marcia Armstrong stated that she feels that the WQCB’s attempt to create consistent regulations across the Klamath Basin fails to address the varying hydrologies and water uses in separate areas.

Armstrong said that she is concerned that farmers and loggers will lose representation if they cannot attend meetings of the Technical Advisory Group that will be assembled to identify needs and strategies in the Klamath basin. She also expressed her belief that additional regulations may negatively impact the unemployment rate of the county, the idea of proximate cause and how it may fit in with TMDL implementation and effects she anticipates further restrictions on suction dredge mining may have on small communities along the Klamath.

• Siskiyou County’s Natural Resource Policy Specialist Ric Costales echoed Armstrong’s concerns regarding the basin-wide approach to regulation and the exclusion of suction dredge mining from thermal refugia, which are cool, deeper pockets in the river bed where salmon gather to escape hotter water temperatures.

While Costales commended the WQCB’s response to comments from the public, he said that he believes issues will continue to persist with an expanding federal regulatory structure and the possibility of extending timber industry regulations.

• Siskiyou County Counsel Thomas Guarino told the board that he wants to see a consideration of the “cumulative impacts of regulations on communities.”

Guarino also stated that there is a suspicion from the county that there is a link between the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA) and the formulation of the TMDLs. The agreement, a final draft of which was released in September of 2009, lays out the plan for the Secretary of the Interior to decide whether or not four dams in the Klamath River will be removed in the coming decades.

Guarino stated that he was told that he would receive paperwork documenting the communication between WQCB staff and parties to the KHSA, but had yet to see the documents.

• A representative from Congressman Tom McClintock’s office encouraged communication between WQCB staff and McClintock’s office, and representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Marine Fisheries Service shared their endorsement of the TMDL implementation plan.

• Susan Corum, spokesperson for the Karuk Tribe, said that the Karuk Tribe supports the current model, but she expressed concern over the WQCB changing the interim regulations on agriculture to interim recommendations in the period between the present and when the TMDL plan is put into effect.

• James Foley, representative for mining interests and the Upper Mid-Klamath Watershed Council, stated that he believes that the state’s regulations against suction dredge mining have become unreasonable, claiming that the WQCB’s proposed exclusion of dredging from thermal refugia areas in the summer would be illegal.

• Robert Walker, representing the ranchers in the Bogus Creek watershed, stated that he believes it would be better for the WQCB to incorporate strategy that would reduce the need for regulatory measures and permitting processes upon land users’ achievement of water quality standards.

Walker, along with a number of commenters, also expressed concern over the creation of basin-wide regulations for differing water systems.

During his comment, Walker expressed thanks to the WQCB staff for helping agricultural land users find grants to come into compliance and for working hands-on with landowners toward compliance goals.

“There’s not a rancher out there who wants to pollute the streams,” Walker said.

• Glen Spain, representing the Pacific Coast Federation of Fisherman’s Associations, talked about the impacts of low salmon runs from the Klamath on coastal communities, stating that he supports the TMDL implementation plan and believes that the costs of compliance should be reduced for landowners in the basin.

• Erica Terence, representing the Klamath Riverkeeper, expressed concern over the water quality for downriver residents who use the Klamath for swimming, fishing, drinking and prayer purposes, stating that she believes that implementation of the TMDLs will lead to cleaner water in the river. She also stated that she feels that the suction dredging exclusion is appropriate, but disagrees with the decision to have interim recommendations instead of enforceable regulations.

• Copco resident Rex Cozzalio stated that he believes that the data used for modeling the TMDLs was manipulated, and spoke of his fear that imposing new regulations will lead to others and eventually the downfall of Siskiyou County.

• Dr. John Menke stated that he feels that the modeling used does not fully account for phosphorous loading in the upper Klamath basin area, explaining that he does not feel the nutrient degredation of the river can be resolved as a result.

Menke also began to accuse the WQCB staff of ignoring key data, at one point standing up and telling the board that they would “shut up and let him finish” after being asked to stay on topic and eventually being asked to leave.

Board chair Geoffrey Hales advised against calling law enforcement when Menke advanced toward the staff and board members, however, officers from the Yreka Police Department arrived on the scene a short time later.

• Anthony Intiso cited historical documents that describe fish numbers and also expressed concern over the representation of pre-dam conditions in the TMDL modeling.

• The last speaker of the day, Dr. Richard Gierak, suggested that the signs along the Klamath expressing health concerns be removed and also stated that the board should utilize “competent, non-radical scientists” in order to assess the toxicity of sediments trapped behind the dams on the Klamath.

Gierak also contended the state’s ability to administer regulations on rivers.

The period for submitting written comments on the recent revisions to the TMDL implementation plan runs until Feb. 9. Comments can be sent to Katharine Carter, Regional Water Quality Control Board, 5550 Skylane Blvd, Suite A, Santa Rosa, CA 95403.
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