Water board discusses Klamath with county leaders
The appearance was made at the request of District 5 Supervisor Marcia Armstrong and other board members.
David Leland, supervising water resource control engineer, directed the presentation, with assistance from water resource control engineers Matt St. John and Bryan McFadin.
The water board is preparing a TMDL technical analysis and implementation plan “to bring the river into compliance with water quality standards,” according to an update provided by the engineers.
The document is expected to be released in June and will be followed by public meetings. In July, more meetings and workshops will take place, followed by a public comment period in August.
The final implementation plan must be ready by December of 2010, as required by a court-ordered decree, and presented for approval to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
TMDL is the acronym for “total maximum daily load” under the Clean Water Act passed by Congress in 1972, which superseded the 1948 Water Pollution Control Act. The term applies to the amount of pollution that can enter waterways while still maintaining water quality standards.
The state of California’s 1969 Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act established the Water Resources Board and nine regional water quality control boards. Siskiyou County falls under the jurisdiction of NCWQCB. This board interprets and enforces both federal and state water quality standards.
In a narrated a PowerPoint presentation, St. John explained that the water board is looking at the entire Klamath Basin, with focus on the California-Oregon state line, the PacifiCorp hydroelectric dams, the Iron Gate Hatchery and the mouths of all tributaries.
“Klamath River temperatures bring it out of compliance,” he said, although later admitted that the Klamath is “not a cold water river.”
Other potential problems, he said, are channel alterations, agricultural diversions and excessive growth of algae that alters the oxygen levels of the water and also the pH balance.
He mentioned possible health risks attributed to the algae blooms.
The water board has been looking at how activities such as timber harvesting, road construction and usage, irrigation and grazing are affecting TMDLs.
In reference to organic nutrients, algae and phosphorus, he said, “Lots of this stuff is coming from Oregon.
“Measurements at the state line show Oregon has problems,” he continued, “We need a high level of coordination between Oregon and California.”
Overall opportunities for improvement, he said, might include centralized treatment facilities and reduction of nutrients and organic loads through wetlands and other treatment systems.
He also mentioned the potential for “responsible parties to trade water quality improvement efforts.” He said there could be an accounting system and credits perhaps could be issued and traded back and forth in a kind of cap and trade system.
“The Copco and Irongate reservoirs are having impacts in creating slower-moving water,” he said. “The nutrients come from upstream but are allowed to grow in the slower-moving waters.”
“We’re not making any assumptions about whether the dams stay or go,” he emphasized.
He did say, however, that “PacifiCorp must meet allocations and targets through the relicensing process.”
He said this would involve the cooperation of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and PacifiCorp working with the state Water Resources Board.
St. John said that TMDLs have been completed for the Shasta, Scott and Salmon rivers and that the regional water quality control board is in the process of developing waivers or permits for activities in those areas including timber harvesting, road usage, grazing and irrigated agriculture. He mentioned that landowners could get grant funds to help them achieve the limits set by the TMDLs.
County natural resource specialist Ric Costales commented to the board that “water quality issues can be addressed through waivers and permits.” He reminded the board that permits all required fees and that the burden of proof is generally on the landowner. In the case of an outright prohibition of an activity, Costales said he believes the burden of proof lies with the water board.
Costales said that Scott Valley is currently under a conditional waiver and that there could eventually be fees for these waivers.
Permit fees for timber harvest plans, he said, run about $1,200 per year.
Water quality engineer McFadin said, “The burden of proof applies to water temperature. Prohibitions apply to sediments.”
“Prohibitions for generating adverse discharges apply to logging and construction,” Leland added.
Supervisor Armstrong brought up the coordination ordinance that asks state and federal agencies to inform the county of their activities. She said she was disappointed that “the science has not been released to the public.” She said she remembers “the days when some of these decisions were made on a drive-by basis.
“The county hasn’t been involved much – and you’re already half through the process of making decisions,” she said.
She asserted that it would take millions of dollars to fix all the roads in Scott Valley that might cause dust to enter the rivers.
“We don’t have that kind of money,” she said, adding, “The timber harvest waivers are expiring; we don’t want to destroy our economy. We’re down to two plywood mills in the county.”
District 1 Supervisor Jim Cook said he didn’t think there was “a lot of consistency in what you do,” referring to TMDLs that have been established for some of the tributaries.
“What about the grave public health issues?” he asked. “If you have information about this, you need to let us know.”
Cook took issue regarding phosphorous being claimed as a pollutant.
“It’s a naturally occurring substance in young volcanic soil. I’m concerned that you’re talking about reducing phosphorous.
“Upper Klamath Lake has all kinds of algae. It’s a natural occurrence. You’re talking about lowering the amounts of naturally occurring elements,” he continued.
“Our farmers, ranchers and loggers are restricted as to how they can operate,” stated District 4 supervisor Grace Bennett, “Our people need to be able to work. I think that is not your intent [to make it impossible to work], but our people need to work.”
“Most of the pollution is out of our control,” added District 2 Supervisor Ed Valenzuela, “it comes from Oregon.”
Board Chair Michael Kobseff, of District 3, said he, too, was concerned about the public health statement.
“I don’t think you have the authority to say that,” he asserted.
“The regulatory process is causing such havoc on this economy,” Kobseff continued, “and it cannot sustain itself. I don’t think you’ll find any landowner in Siskiyou County that won’t cooperate, up to a point; they’ll do everything they can. But eventually they will reach a point where they can’t do it anymore.”
To the supervisors’ comments, St. John replied, “Nothing is final yet,” and noted that comments from the public will be taken into consideration.
“Eighty-plus percent of the nutrients originate in Upper Klamath Lake,” St. John continued. “We know that. This [plan] will require major reductions in Upper Klamath Lake.”
“The temperature objective is being met if the water is at its natural level,” added McFadin, “It’ a warm river. It’s the refugia [isolated cold water areas] that allow fish to survive.”
Earlier coverage of the Klamath TMDLs can be found here: www.siskiyoudaily.com/archive/x1465810729/California-water-board-addresses-Klamath-River-impairments