Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
Fort Jones, California
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Vol 33, No. 5
Page A1, column 2
Flawed water quality plan is approved
Felice Pace demands ground water for Scott River flows.
By Liz Bowen, Pioneer Press Assistant Editor, Fort Jones, Calif.
YREKA, Calif. – Neither the left or the right are happy, but the employees of the regional water quality agency were elated. For two-and-a-half years, the staff had worked on compiling an Action Plan for the Scott River in Siskiyou County.
Also Alexis Straus from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said that the 600-plus page Action Plan met the federal Clean Water Act requirements and should be approved. Straus should also be pleased.
Last week, the controversial Action Plan to fix the government-perceived water quality impairments in the Scott River was approved. The river was listed as impaired with the EPA, with two complaints: water temperature was too warm; and too much sediment was in the river. The state was expected to come up with a plan to fix the impairments, which is managed by the California Water Quality Control Board with boards and agency staff that work in regions.
The board members and staff employees of the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board traveled the seven hours from its Santa Rosa headquarters to Yreka for the Dec. 7 meeting, which was held in the Yreka Community Theater.
The only action item on the December meeting agenda was to decide the fate of the Scott River Total Maximum Daily Load Action Plan, which if passed, would create an amendment to the Klamath Basin Water Quality Control Plan.
Also, additional regulations regarding increased shade along the Scott River and sediment controls would begin to be implemented.
After being asked for a delay in the decision by those on the right and also told by the left that the board should move faster and establish enforcements quicker, the board did move forward with the process that is being pushed by the federal Clean Water Act.
Those on the left side still want more. These groups include the Yurok Tribe, the Quartz Valley Indian Reservation, Felice Pace and Petey Brucker with their new Klamath River Keepers organization, several fishing groups and environmental groups.
Their biggest complaint is about water. These groups demand higher water flows in the Scott River. The Yuroks, Harold Bennett from the Quartz Valley Indian Reservation and Pace demand ground water use in the Scott Valley should be reduced and even water right adjudications changed. Bennett said his group does not like the extraction of ground water that is used by the farmers.
Pace said that timber and agriculture needs to change or “coho and fall chinook will go away.” He also bragged about being the only plaintiff on a lawsuit, regarding this issue, against the regional water quality board and said that he and others “have been waiting for 30 years” for meaningful sediment control in the river.
Pace also threatened another lawsuit over agricultural wells in the Scott Valley. He claims that the ground water is reducing water flows in the Scott River.
Brucker said that a recovery plan should be ramped-up in order to “figure out how to bring the fish back.”
On the right side of the TMDL issue were the Siskiyou County, Forest Service, Siskiyou Resource Conservation District, two individuals with Ph. Ds in natural resource areas, landowners, and timber.
Marcia Armstrong, Siskiyou County supervisor, was concerned about the funds that will be needed to continue the improvement of the county road system. Currently, the roads provide safe transportation for county residents. Jim DePree, the natural resource specialist for the county, was concerned over two issues: One was that the Yurok Tribe is demanding changes in water rights of agriculture; and the second was the acknowledgement of “legacy” issues and natural floods that have disturbed the Scott River.
Bill Krum from the Siskiyou Resource Conservation District questioned the completeness of the data that was used to establish shading-by-trees goals and the reduction of sediment.
Representatives from Sierra Pacific Industries, Timber Products and Fruit Growers Supply Co. also questioned the quality of data used as science and the affect additional regulations will have on the timber industry.
Sari Sommarstrom, Ph. D., a watershed consultant, found “fundamental flaws” and disagreed with the way sediment data was used. She said that the “rush to meet the deadline has created errors” and asked for a delay in the decision.
Sommarstrom quoted numbers of fish that show there has been a huge increase since the 1980s and 1990s. In the year 2003, more than 14,000 fall chinook returned to the Scott River system. The following year, held the largest return on record of coho salmon.
John Menke, also a Ph. D., taught eco-system modeling at University of California at Davis for many years and is frustrated with the poor peer review of the data and science that has been used by the government staff to develop the Action Plan. He served on the local advisory group to help develop correct data and said that there are not checks and balances in the document.
“I can’t stand bad data to be used as good data,” he said, adding that there were over “a thousand things” he could show them that was wrong with their Action Plan. “I don’t like to see a flawed TMDL be approved,” Menke finished.
Several of the board members were concerned about monitoring the process to see that activities and programs begin, which are called for in the Scott River TMDL. But in the end, all of the seven of the board members that were present voted to approve the Action Plan and amendment to the Basin Plan
How and when Scott River landowners will be affected is a question with no answer at the present time.
Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM Pacific
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