Time to Take Action
Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.

by Siskiyou County Supervisor Marcia Armstrong 3/19/11, Ridin Point
- a weekly column published in the Siskiyou Daily News

Scott River Watershed Forum: Bryan McFadin of the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (NCRWQCB) recently announced an upcoming workshop that will include members of the regional board scheduled for Fort Jones at the city hall on April 20-21. The first day will include a discussion of Scott Valley groundwater and the second day, reissuance of a conditional waiver for discharge under the Scott River TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load.) http://users.sisqtel.net/armstrng/TMDL%20water%20quality.htm

The Scott River was originally listed as “impaired” for sediment and temperature pollutants. The lists now include “water” as connected to temperature.    http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/northcoast/  The Clean Water Act Section 303(d) list and 305(b) report identify sediment sources to include: irrigated crop production; mining tailings; pasture grazing (riparian and upland); silviculture (forestry); resource extraction (mining); non-point and natural sources. The list identifies sources of temperature/water pollution as: agricultural return flows; drainage and filling of wetlands; flow modification; habitat modification; irrigated crop production; pasture grazing (riparian and upland); removal of riparian vegetation; silviculture (forestry); streambank modification/destabilization; water diversions; non-point source and other.

The current Scott River TMDL Implementation Workplan has relied heavily on efforts of landowners, with grant, technical and education assistance through the Siskiyou Resource Conservation District (RCD,) the Scott River Watershed Council, the federal Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and the University of California Farm and Ranch Advisors to voluntarily address sources of pollution.

One aspect of the Workplan included the Scott River Groundwater Study Plan, which was assigned to Siskiyou County and the RCD. An expert in groundwater, Thomas Harter, PhD. from U.C. Davis, has been working with valley residents on a static well level study for many years. He was also selected to write the Scott River Groundwater Study Plan.  http://groundwater.ucdavis.edu/ScottValley.htm The NCRWQCB recently provided a grant for Dr. Harter to begin implementation of the study. The static well study continues under separate private, non-government funding and agreements with landowners and will continue to contribute general data to inform the new study.

It is anticipated that, at the April 20th workshop, Dr. Harter will present a rough initial groundwater model that has been created from the data collected. Recently, Siskiyou County appointed a local Scott Valley Groundwater Advisory Board to become informed about what is known about groundwater in the Valley and to work with Dr. Harter. It is anticipated that the Advisory Board will advise the Board of Supervisors as to findings and recommendations on any actions to be taken. It is possible that, once more information is known, a voluntary groundwater management plan can be created to inform individual management decisions to improve groundwater recharge and surface water flow.   

The California Porter Cologne Water Quality Act requires either an absolute prohibition on pollution discharge or a permit. “Conditional Waivers of Waste Discharge Requirements” can be allowed for a period of five years, at which time they are renewed or replaced. The “waiver” covers actions listed as sources of pollution as long as they comply with the conditions. (The exceptions are timber, construction, storm water discharge, dredge and fill and rip rap, which need permits.) The current Scott Valley Conditional Waiver is self-directed – in the hands of the community. This was largely accomplished through RCD programs to reduce sediment, cool stream temperature and plant riparian vegetation. This waiver expires in August of this year.

The April 21 workshop will discuss the new waiver conditions for Scott Valley. It is anticipated that there will be a requirement for landowners to monitor and report their actions taken in compliance with the waiver, similar to what is currently done in Shasta Valley.  Recently, the Klamath River TMDL was approved by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA.) Aspects of this regulatory action will apply to activities in the entire Klamath system. According to Ben Zabinsky of the NCRWQCB, he is currently working on a Conditional Waiver for grazing and irrigated land use. Scoping is scheduled for this summer and the waiver is anticipated to be ready for adoption in 2012.  http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/northcoast/water_issues/programs/grazing_and_irrigated_agriculture/.

McFadin stated that Ag waivers are prevalent in the central Valley and Coast. Conditions will apply to activities such as riparian management, streamside management, sediment discharge, roads, manure management and tailwater. Agriculturalists would have to fill out a questionnaire, enroll in the waiver program, comply, monitor and report. Those who do not enroll would be contacted. The County has questioned whether it would not be better to go the “prohibition” route, requiring a permit only when there is an actual discharge and not just a blanket requirement for entire categories of economic activity. McFadin stated that the Klamath TMDL specifically prohibits violation of the Basin Plan. He stated that individual permits would not “work on a grand scale,” however group permits could be possible


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