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Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
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Ridin Point by Marcia Armstrong, Siskiyou County Supervisor April 30, 2008

marcia8.jpg.jpg (10768 bytes)                  Water Quality, Shasta Valley, Wetlands & Riparian

Amy Hansen of the Shasta Valley CRMP (Coordinated Resource Management Planning group) recently gave an update to the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (NCRWQCB) about long term efforts to reduce stream temperatures and low dissolved oxygen, which can hurt salmon.

Pools that form behind flash board dams create warm water and stimulate the growth of aquatic plans that consume oxygen in the water. The Araujo dam project, (the first dam going up the Shasta River,) is nearing completion. The dam structure has been removed and a fish screen installed to serve several water users. Instead of a gravity-fed open ditch system, four new electrical pumps divert water through almost seven miles of pipe for a much more efficient delivery system. The project also allows owners to turn off the river pumps and capture and re-use some tailwater (runoff) from neighboring fields. This intercepts nutrients and hot water before they enter the river.

Another general tailwater reduction project is working to identify from where irrigation runoff is coming and where it is entering the river. This information will be used to focus potential reduction projects where warm and nutrient-rich tailwater is currently running off into areas where there is cool receiving water and high quality salmon habitat. Water “grab” samples will be taken and about 30 temperature probes installed to measure and assess water temperature and chemistry.

A groundwater study has begun with collection and review of what is already known about the Shasta Valley. An advisory committee will identify gaps in knowledge, research and data needs. Another multi-agency group is working on the challenge of increasing riparian vegetation on the Shasta River system. They will examine past failures and successes, sort out what did and didn’t work and why. They will also experiment with new approaches.

Following the lead of the Scott Valley, the Shasta Valley has also created a water trust. The effort is currently working to identify areas where and when small amounts of additional real (not paper) water could make a significant difference to flows and salmon habitat. “Forbearance” agreements are used, where water right holders agree under contract to cease using their right for the season. Monitoring is done to assure that forbearance actually does result in an increase in flows.

According to NCRWQCB staff, land owners and water users in Shasta Valley may operate under a waiver of Waste Discharge Requirements (WDR) if they operate according to the provisions and restrictions of the Shasta TMDL. (Total Maximum Daily Loads.)  Under reporting requirements, they should file a Notice of Intent (NOI) that they have selected one of four options. They are working with: (1) the RCD; (2) the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS); (3) the UCE Farm Advisor; or (4) the water board.

NCRWQCB staff also briefed their board on the co-development of a Wetland and Riparian Protection Policy with the State Water Resources Control Boad. Current plans are to implement new regulations to protect the functions of these areas and the loss of beneficial uses. This will include floodplains and “ephemeral streams.” Requirements will be added as conditions on other permits such as the 404 Clean Water Act Permit, WDR permit and Stormwater runoff permit. It could also be implemented through County ordinance, County General Plan Amendment or voluntarily. This, and the proposed Sediment Policy for the North Coast Basin Water Quality Plan are developments to watch closely. http://www.swrcb.ca.gov/rwqcb1/    

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