Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Water quality issues
Yreka, Calif. — The North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board’s (NCRWQCB) Irrigated Lands Discharge Program is getting underway with the formation of sub-regional advisory groups to inform the process, and the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors has voted to engage in the process by participating in the groups.
Both federal and state law require the regulation of “discharges” that have the potential to influence water quality. That process is normally rather straightforward for “point source” or concentrated discharges. But according to Siskiyou County Natural Resource Policy Specialist Ric Costales, “non-point” sources such as manure, pesticides or sediment that could be delivered to water sources via irrigation are “extremely problematic.”
Costales said most of California is already under some sort of program to regulate irrigation discharges. At the supervisors’ meeting on Jan. 3, Costales advised the board to participate in the process.
He said the process of developing regulations for irrigation discharges and the accompanying waiver and prohibitions that will be developed may essentially result in a “permit to farm.” Though he added, “Most people will probably not need a waiver or a Waste Discharge Requirement (WDR). They would just be subject to the general prohibition ... not to pollute the waters of the state.”
According to the NCRWQCB’s Charter for the Stakeholder Advisory Group, “The program will address existing and potential impacts to water quality to meet the requirements of the California Water Code, the State Nonpoint Source Policy and the Klamath River Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs).”
Some local irrigators fear that this regulatory process will turn into a prohibitively expensive and cumbersome permitting structure that will force small family farms out of business. In an effort to avoid this outcome, the NCRWQCB has developed an advisory structure to inform its decisions as it forms the regulations, Costales said.
The North Coast region’s advisory group will be advised by four sub-regional advisory stakeholder groups. The groups are:
• Tulelake area and Butte Valley;
• Scott River watershed, Shasta River watershed and the Upper Mid-Klamath Region;
• Del Norte County, Humboldt County and Trinity County; and
• Sonoma County, Medocino County and Marin County.
The sub-regional groups will include representatives from resource conservation districts (RCDs), irrigation districts, environmental groups, state and federal agencies, farmers, ranchers and tribes.
The advisory groups’ charter states, “The small groups are not intended to have decision-making authority, but will be the primary venue for advisory group review of all program elements and documents.”
Leo Bergeron, president of the Siskiyou County Water Users Association (SCWUA), attended the Board of Supervisors meeting to speak in support of the county’s participation in the advisory group.
“Agriculture in this country is a target and this is just another step to put us out of business,” Bergeron said. He told the supervisors “the county should be a strong and verbal influence” in the this regulation process.
District 5 Supervisor Marcia Armstrong disagreed with Bergeron.
“One thing I’m confused with, Mr. Bergeron, is that so many people want us to coordinate, yet if we participate as a stakeholder, there’s no leverage with the board (NCRWQCB) to come to us to coordinate,” Armstrong said. “In a stakeholder process you lose all the clout, all the leverage that you have because you’re seated in parody with any organization, any nonprofit, any individual who is considered a stakeholder. So you’ve lost your identity as a government with a concurrent jurisdiction.”
According to Armstrong, the county Flood Control and Water Conservation Board, directed by the five supervisors, has concurrent jurisdiction with the NCRWQCB over water quality.
District 1 Supervisor Jim Cook said he does not agree that county supervisors participating in an advisory group would negate the board’s right to pursue policy coordination. He suggested that, in addition to participation, the supervisors should send a letter to the NCRWQCB demanding policy coordination.
Cook made the motion to authorize county participation in the advisory groups, to request that the SCWUA be included in the Scott and Shasta advisory group, and that Butte Valley Irrigation District be included in the Tulelake Butte Valley advisory group.
District 3 Supervisor Michael Kobseff offered a second, and the motion was passed by a 4-to-1 vote. Armstrong voted against the motion.
A second motion was made by Cook and seconded by Armstrong to send a letter to the NCRWQCB demanding policy coordination on the issue. The motion passed by a 4-to-1 vote with District 2 Supervisor Ed Valenzuela voting against it.
Page Updated: Tuesday January 10, 2012 03:25 AM Pacific
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