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Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Water Quality
by Marcia Armstrong, Siskiyou County District 5,  5/12/06

WATER QUALITY: Under the California Porter- Cologne Water Quality Act and Section 303(d) of the federal Clean Water Act, the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (NCRWQCB) has established a list of “beneficial uses” of water for each river system, including the Scott and the Shasta. (These would be uses such as irrigation, recreation, and cold water fisheries.)  For each beneficial use, water quality standards are established. (For instance, salmon are a cold water fish that need habitat that does not exceed a certain range of temperature.)

When a river does not meet the water quality standards for each of its beneficial uses, it is declared water quality “impaired.”  The Scott River is listed as “impaired” or polluted for excessive sediment and high water temperatures. The Shasta River is listed for low dissolved oxygen and high water temperatures. The Klamath River is listed for nutrients, temperature and low dissolved oxygen. The impaired status is because the rivers do not meet the standards set for cold water fisheries – salmon and steelhead.

A Total Maximum Daily Load or TMDL is the maximum amount of pollutant that a river can receive and still meet the water quality standards for its beneficial uses. When a TMDL is established, the NCRWQCB also establishes an Action Plan for restrictions on land and water uses in order to meet water quality objectives.

The Scott River has gone through its regional TMDL process and is now at the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) level for approval. In addition to permits for discharges, the Scott River Action Plan includes protection of shade trees and vegetation in riparian areas (riparian buffers,) road erosion controls and a groundwater study. Unfortunately, due to requests made by Felice Pace and other radical environmentalists, the SWRCB has not approved the Plan. It has asked for public comments on requiring additional minimum “flow options” in the Scott River for the fish. That hearing will be on June 7 in Sacramento. http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/tmdl/tmdl.html It is not clear how this will affect adjudicated water use rights in the Scott River watershed.

The Shasta River TMDL process and Action Plan is still at the regional level. The NCRWQCB has rejected some of the language initially proposed by staff. Areas under consideration include management of riparian buffers, avoidance of tailwater discharge of nutrients and fine sediment, increase of instream flows by 45 c.f.s. of cold water, removal of minor impoundments and bring discharges at Dwinnell dam into compliance with water quality standards. The Action Plan will be reconsidered at a later date after staff makes changes requested by the NCRWQCB.

A few weeks back, the NCRWQCB revealed the latest in its ongoing attack. A proposed amendment to the regional Water Quality Control Plan would recognize two new “beneficial uses” for which water quality standards will be established. These “uses” are stream  and wetlands systems – including stream channels, wetlands, riparian areas, floodplains. According to their notice, this will “complete the entire watershed water quality management strategy.” Considering the extent of floodplains in our valleys, this could move the regulation of most land and water use under the NCRWQCB.  http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/northcoast/programs/basinplan/swspp.html  

SISKIYOU CABLEVISION: The franchise for Siskiyou Cablevision (SC) will be considered for renewal at the Board of Supervisor’s June 6th meeting. In discussions about this renewal and public access, I have learned that people can currently submit VHS tapes of events, interviews, etc. for airing on Channel 2. In fact, SC would welcome such tapes. It will currently take them about one week to convert the material to digitized format for tv. They will return the original tape to you. Here is a wonderful opportunity to bring events to those who don’t get out or who miss them. This could be a great opportunity for a budding film maker and would help bring our valley closer.   




Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM  Pacific

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