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Lost River targeted

by Lance Waldren, Pioneer Press July 4, 2007

KLAMATH FALLS - The water issues in the Basin have historically been focused on water quantities. Now the emphasis will be placed on water quality as well.

A Public Review Draft has been prepared by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) addressing the impact of nutrient discharges resulting in low dissolved oxygen and PH impairments to lower Lost River, the Tulelake and Lower Klamath Refuges.

In 1992, the Klamath River Basin, which includes Lost River and the refuges, was added to a list of "impaired or polluted" water bodies. Under the Clean Water Act, Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) programs are established to identify the maximum amount of pollutants that can be discharged to water bodies without causing violations of water quality standards and to assure that water quality standards are attained and maintained in waters that are now polluted. Also under a consent decree the TMDL's for Lost River must be completed by December 2007.

The EPA draft shows the proposed TMDL's to address nutrients and PH in these systems.

Under these proposals the "load allocation" of Lost River must be cut by 50 percent from the 1999 levels.

The draft continues with recommendations on how to achieve these standards based on a model prepared by them.

"We have big time concerns over this and are working hard to stay on top of it" said Greg Addington, head of the Klamath Water Users Association. "We question the standards used in the model and encourage better science."

"If every man, woman, child, dog and cat were removed from the Basin we would still not be able to meet their standards," Addington told the Pioneer Press.

He said many of the recommendations have already been implemented over the last ten years. He went on to say many of the recommendations outlined could never be done.

One of Addington's main concerns was over the recommendations for improvement being placed in the draft TMDL document. He said EPA has no authority to enforce and should not have made the recommendations or they should be a separate document.

Also very involved in the Basin water issues is local rancher Bill Kennedy. The Pioneer Press contacted Kennedy who commented on the Clean Water Act and the proposed TMDL'S for Lost River.

Clean water is very important to all of us, but we should be concerned regarding the interpretation and use of the Clean Water Act, said Kennedy.

"The Clean Water Act is being positioned to create the perfect storm of environmental disasters," he said. "The use of the TMDL process and implementation of water quality management plans has the potential to shut down our western economics in the court system."

Kennedy said the background (natural) levels of nutrients and PH in Lost River would not meet the EPA standards even if all agriculture was eliminated. The language of the act is ambiguous and the data has not been collected. Kennedy said the EPA pulled the 50 percent reduction from thin air.

"While court actions may result in tremendous fund raisers for the anti-irrigation advocates, the same court action will certainly be a disaster for our wildlife and our communities," said Kennedy.

EPA is providing a formal comment period for the public to review the draft Lost River TMDL. The notice and public draft TMDL is available on the EPA Region 9 website. EPA will consider all written comments received during the comment period, make revisions as warranted based upon those comments and prepare a written responsiveness summary demonstrating how each comment was considered in the final TMDL decision.
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