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Scott River TMDL action plan in process

 October 25, 2005

YREKA - A grim-faced board of county supervisors received its “assignment” from the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Water Board) on Nov. 18, an action plan requiring Siskiyou County to develop a MOU to address county roads, develop a comprehensive grading ordinance, and study the connection between ground and surface water in the Scott Valley.

Three staff members with the Regional Water Board addressed the supervisors, providing the county with its list of expectations in the process of developing a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for sediment and temperature action plan for the Scott River. The plan, in its final stages of development, is scheduled for adoption Dec. 7 in Yreka.

Regional Water Board Executive Officer Catherine Kuhlman said the group is in the process of developing TMDLs and associated action plans for all the watersheds in the Klamath Basin.

“The work is being conducted under the terms of a consent decree entered into by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1997,” she said.

A TMDL and action plan for the Salmon River was adopted by the Regional Water Board in May 2005. The public draft of the Scott River watershed sediment and temperature TMDLs is now available for review with comments due on or before Nov. 3. The adoption hearing is scheduled for Dec. 7.

Kuhlman said TMDLs for the Shasta, Lost, and Klamath rivers are under development.

“I have been involved with the Klamath Basin for several years,” Kuhlman said. “The fishery is in trouble but people are undecided as to why.”

She said the TMDL program started with Clean Water Act in 1972. However, the work was not done and the state was sued, forcing it to do the TMDLs with a court enforced schedule.

The TMDL requires technical analysis and an implementation plan. “You don't put in place rules without having public dialogue,” she said.

The Regional Water Board is an “enforcement” agency, one that many feel has been “pushing its weight around” in the county. Others see the “public input” requirement of the rule setting as a formality, imposing rules that are inappropriate for the county.

The grim faces of the supervisors reflect these frustrations with the three county expectations, “pushing” at some sensitive spots.

The expectation to develop a Memorandum of Understanding between the county and the Regional Water Board to address county roads is a sore spot because Siskiyou County has been doing so on its own, setting a regional standard for its environmentally friendly road work.

The expectation for the county to develop a comprehensive grading ordinance forces the supervisors to impose regulation in the area of private property rights, a sacred taboo in Siskiyou County.

“A comprehensive grading ordinance scares the heck out of me,” Supervisor Bill Overman said. “Our RCDs have put in millions improving habitat and vegetation.”

The request to study the connection between ground and surface water is also a fearful one for the supervisors as they seek to protect local water rights from a perceived attempt of outside interests seeking control of the county's water resources.

“We are in agreement that there is too much sediment and temperatures are too hot to support salmon in the Scott River,” Kuhlman said. “We know a lot about this watershed but still have a heck of a lot more to learn.”

She said the Regional Water Board hopes to refine the analysis and implementation as information is gathered.

“We need to reduce sediment from the roads, timber harvesting and grazing and improve shade areas through tree planting,” Kuhlman said. “I know that ‘grading ordinance' is a four letter word up here. We also need a ground water study.”

Kuhlman said as a regulatory agency, the Regional Water Board has enforced sediment violations in waterways on private land but has yet to enforce temperature violations. She said with the Scott River plan almost complete, the next plan is for the Shasta River. The plans is presently being peer reviewed with a Dec. 9 release and January workshops on schedule for a summer deadline.




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