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Andrew Parker, from the Tetra Tech consulting firm, contracted by the EPA, helped answer questions.
Irrigators expressed concern that much of the data for the TMDLs was generalized. Parker said they averaged what data they had. He said the TMDLs were based on 1999 conditions, they check samples at one time, and there is a level of uncertainty. “They don’t mimic exact timing and location on all water quality conditions,” he said. “If we don’t have data, we have to make assumptions; there were a lot of situations we made assumptions.”
Luther Horsley, president of Klamath Water Users Association, said the standards seem unachievable given the historical natural conditions of the huge nutrient load while irrigation has improved water quality in some areas. “Are we trying to make the water quality better than it was historically? In 1909 this water quality was considered natural, but today they call the same quality ‘polluted.’”
Parker said natural conditions weren’t explicitly addressed.
Since the water quality was bad on some charts only 2 to 3 percent of the time, a scientist asked why the load needed to be reduced 50 percent since the medium was below average for nutrients. Parker responded that criteria were set at the mandatory minimum level.
John Hicks from the Bureau of Reclamation said that with this document’s lack of data and uncertainty, every environmental group could take the irrigators to court.
Greg Addington, executive director of the Klamath Water Users Association, said, “EPA readily acknowledges they have no authority to require an implementation plan, yet the draft TMDL contains a recommended implementation plan. If EPA feels they need to make recommendations, they should do so in a separate document.”
Oregon State Sen. Doug Whitsett, commenting on the document, said the Clean Water Act process for establishing TMDLs for the Lost River has two basic flaws:
“The first flaw is that the Lost River is treated as a tributary to the Klamath River even though it was historically a land-locked river system. No background levels can be established for comparison with current nutrient and temperature loads because the current river flow as a tributary to the Klamath River did not exist historically.
“The second flaw is the assumption that certain predetermined
water temperatures or nutrient concentrations are achievable in
all streams. Those assumptions were not applicable to the Lost
River before channel modifications due to very low river gradient
and very high background levels of phosphorous, and they are
certainly not applicable to the river after channel
Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM Pacific
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