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Klamath TMDL revisions presented to public

By David Smith, Siskiyou Daily News January 28, 2010

The meeting, held before the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (WQCB), featured a short presentation on how the TMDL implementation plan has been revised since June and December of 2009.

TMDLs identify sources of pollution in a water body and act as a regulatory tool to achieve water quality standards as defined by the federal Clean Water Act.

Lead developer of the Klamath’s TMDL implementation plan, Ben Zabinsky, stated that two such sources are the point where the Lost River in Oregon enters the Klamath and the point at which the Klamath enters California. He said that the WQCB is working with the Oregon Department of Water Quality to set up a water quality tracking and accounting program to address those sources.

Zabinsky then talked about the “non-point” source policy and how the WQCB is trying to create consistent regulation across the region as “the most efficient way to regulate various nonpoint sources throughout the North Coast Region.” Sources designated as nonpoint are those which add to the level of pollutants in a water body and do not have a specific entry point, for example, the WQCB has categorized agricultural run-off and sediment loading from timber practices as nonpoint sources.

Zabinsky noted that changes to the implementation plan have largely been due to the comments received from the public, including the thermal refugia protection policy and the interim measures for those in agriculture before the implementation plan goes into effect.

Thermal refugia are cool, deeper points in the river where salmon congregate as they move through the system. The new policy, according to Zabinsky, includes a recommendation that suction dredge mining be excluded from thermal refugia areas in the summer months. The policy would also increase scrutiny on permitting other discharges in thermal refugia areas.

Zabinsky also stated that the plan for the interim period has changed so that instead of regulations, agricultural dischargers will be given recommendations on how to prepare for the implementation of the new TMDLs for the Klamath. Those recommendations include documentation of past projects and current practices, organization into watershed groups to report to the regional board and participation in the Technical Advisory Group that will identify water quality needs. The WQCB also recommends that agriculture users attend training on water quality management planning and implementation.

The revisions also include an expanded reassessment plan for the Klamath, with the WQCB planning for five-year analyses of progress toward TMDL targets and allocations, discharger reporting programs and changes to the TMDL analysis due to advancements in science.

Those wishing to comment on the TMDL implementation plan revisions have until Feb. 9 and can send them to Katharine Carter, Regional Water Quality Control Board, 5550 Skylane Blvd, Suite A, Santa Rosa, CA 95403. The adoption hearing for the TMDL implementation plan will be March 24 and 25 at the Yurok Tribal Headquarters in Klamath, CA.

The public was allowed to present oral comments at Wednesday’s meeting, which will be covered in Friday’s Siskiyou Daily News.
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