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Water Board’s Plan to Control Sediment in Impaired Watersheds

Comments on this are due by Friday Dec 14. Since the next SCWC meeting is Dec 12, we will not be able to comment as a coalition. Your own organization is therefore encouraged to do your own letter. Please contact Alan Levine at alevine@mcn.org if you have questions.

Stephen

Interested Parties – Impaired Rivers – COAST ACTION GROUP COMMENTS – TEXT BELOW OPENING – AND – ATTACHED

This should give you some ideas for your own comments  – Due Dec. 14th

REGIONAL BOARD WORK PLAN TO CONTROL SEDIMENT IN SEDIMENT-IMPAIRED WATERSHEDS

The work load outline and budgetary needs (noted briefly above) as outlined in the Work Plan are quite robust and of necessity in getting these tasks  moving forward and completed as part of our goal of achieving  improvement of water quality in our north coast rivers, streams, and wetlands. Without funding to help support these needed tasks it will be very difficult to accomplish these goals.

Thus, it is very important for all interested parties to comment on and support the objectives and tasks outlined in the Work Plan.  We can and should, in our comment, ask for adjustments in areas that need fixing and/or make suggestion on additional issue to be considered – to strengthen the Work Plan and related goals and objectives.

It is also important that we take additional action to support funding of this work plan. There is a budget problem in California.  It is absolutely necessary that we take action to support funding for these processes that are necessary to recover our impaired watersheds.  It would be helpful for individuals and organizations to contact your legislators with support letters on this issue.

ADDITIONAL ISSUE:

It may be a good idea to point out that the Sediment Work Plan is in compliance with State Non-Point Source Policy and that both the Sediment Work Plan and State Non-Point Source Policy (Implementation of Same) are necessary to comply with the findings of the California Coastal Non-Point Source Program and related findings of the EPA and NOAA regarding the State of California’s regulatory authority, and agreement with the EPA and NOAA to use same, in compliance with the Re-authorization of the Costal Zone Management Act.

The Work Plan to Control Excess Sediment in Sediment-Impaired Watersheds (the Work Plan) is available for public review at http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/northcoast/programs/basinplan/sediment_workplan.html .

Written comments on the Work Plan are requested by December 14, 2007.  comments can be sent by e-mail  or hard copy to the Regional Board to:

Rebecca Fitzgerald, Environmental Scientist
North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board
5550 Skylane Boulevard, Suite A
Santa Rosa, California  95403
707-576-2650
Fax 523-0135
rfitzgerald@waterboards.ca.gov

COAST ACTION GROUP DRAFT COMMENTS – BELOW

COAST ACTION GROUP
P.O. BOX 215
POINT ARENA, CA 95468

December 10, 20007

Regional Water Quality Control Board
5550 Skylane Blvd
Santa Rosa, CA 95403

Subject: Comment –  Work Plan  To Control Sediment In Sediment-Impaired Watersheds
In Support of Regional Board Resolution No. R1-2007-0095

Listed Sediment-Impaired Watersheds – Albion River, Big River, Eel River, Elk River Watershed, Estero Americano, Freshwater Creek, Garcia River, Gualala River, Jacoby Creek,  Klamath River, Mad River, Mattole River, Noyo River, Redwood Creek, Russian River, Scott River, Stemple Creek, Ten Mile River, Trinity River.

HISTORY -OVERVIEW

Rivers, streams, and wetlands of the north coast basin have been subject to land use practices that have introduced large amounts of sediment (from accelerated erosion).  These impaired listed (and effected non-listed) waterbodies are suffering from diminished beneficial uses where Water Quality Standards are not being met.  .

In 1997 the Federal District Court issued a Consent Decree initiating prioritization and promulgation of TMDLs to deal with the impaired conditions existing (and continuing to exist) on the above noted waterbodies.  Subsequently TMDLs have been approved by both the EPA and the State of California. Under State Water Code, State promulgated TMDLs must have Action/Implementation Plans that assure compliance with the Basin Plan (area Water Quality Control Plans) and where such Action/Implementation Plans will assure attainment of Water Quality Standards – over time.  EPA promulgated TMDLs deal only with Waste Load Allocations, indicate needed pollutant load reductions,  and set limits on pollutant loading.  No Action or Implementation Plans are attached to the EPA TMDLs. Thus, with EPA approved TMDLs there are no programs or tasks in place to assure attainment of Water Quality Standards.  To date the only TMDL produced with truly enforceable land use criteria is the Garcia River TMDL and Action Plan to reduce sediment – were ether State imposed actions or landowner developed Action Plans will ensure compliance.

State produced TMDLs on the Shasta and Scott Rivers fall short in addressing land use and water use measures that are enforceable to the point of assurance of attaining Water Quality Standards and are reliant on additional programs and tasks –  as outlined in the Work Plan. As stated, EPA TMDLs contain no land use or water use actions, programs, or tasks. There are many other waterbodies in the North Coast Region that are impaired that are not noted as same and are not subject to TMDLs. These additional, non-listed, water resources are also reliant on actions,  programs, and tasked as listed in the Work Plan.

Thus, for most all waterbodies and wetlands in the north coast basin the approval, funding, and implementation of actions, programs, and tasks as described in the Work Plan to Control Sediment in Sediment-Impaird Watersheds is crucial (of necessity) for the protection and recovery of Beneficial Uses and attainment of Water Quality Standards.

Additional Issue in Consideration of Approval of Resolution to Support the Work Plan

The Regional Board has been grappling with these issues for some time. As noted in the Work Plan, and other documentation – including the Impaired Waters Listings, the problem is very large in scope – involving vastness in scale and complexity of actions, programs, and tasks that are needed to assure compliance. There have been some successes. There is much more to be done. The Regional  Board, in compliance with Water Code and Clean Water Act mandates, has historically indicated its intent to move forward with actions to address sediment issue. Support (approval) of a Resolution supporting the Work Plan is consistent with Regional Board  Resolution R1-2004-0087.

Such action would also be consistent with State Non-Point Source Policy.

Coastal Zone Management Act – Compliance

The Sediment Work Plan is in compliance with State Non-Point Source Policy and that both the Sediment Work Plan and State Non-Point Source Policy (and implementation of same) are necessary to comply with the findings of the California Coastal Non-Point Source Program and related findings of the EPA and NOAA regarding the State of California’s regulatory authority and responsibility under the Coastal Zone Management Act. The State of California has agree with federal agency, EPA and NOAA,  to use existing regulatory authority (including TMDLs) in compliance with the Re-authorization of the Coastal Zone Management Act. (Please see additional background information – attached)

PENDING ACTIONS = SEDIMENT WORK PLAN

Pending development are actions, programs, and tasks, as the Sediment Work Plan, outline to the Regional Board what is necessary to accomplish in a plan to address outstanding sediment issue and to move toward the goal of attaining Water Quality Standards on the impaired waterbodies listed above.

Action items (including programs and tasks) pending are listed in great detail in the Sediment Work Plan. The following is a short list of some of the proposed needed actions in the Work Plan – with some discussion attached. This list and discussion is limited to a  number of actions and issues that CAG would like to highlight. Total immersion into the entire Work Plan, including the Waterbody specific plans and recommended actions, is beyond the scope of this document and capability of CAG at this time.

Work Plan – Regional Actions & Tasks – Discussion:

Basin Plan Amendment – Excess Sediment  – To provide Basin Wide policy, objectives,  and prohibitions for the control of the production of excess sediment. This Basin Plan amendment would provide protections to water resources not listed as impaired in addition to sediment impaired listed waterbodies.. The outreach component of this Excess Sediment Basin Plan Amendment is necessary to develop understanding and cooperation from those permitting and conducting land use projects where excess sediment may be an issue.

Agencies, Department of Fish and Game, Department of Forestry, CalTrans, US Forest Service, etc., and including County and City Planning Agency (General Plans, Stormwater and Grading Ordinance) should be approached and enlisted in programs assuring compliance with excess sediment control objectives.

Along with a publication of “Guidance for Excess Sediment Control” the “Handbook for Forest and Ranch Roads – A Guide for planning, designing, constructing, reconstructing, maintaining and closing wildland roads, Weaver and Hagans, 1994” are key elements to assure compliance in land use activity and road construction standards to limit excess sediment production. The “Handbook for Forest and Ranch Roads” is out of date and needs to be republished and additional copies need to be printed for distribution. The Regional Board should support the updating and republication (including publication in Spanish and links on the web) and distribution of this document.  the “Handbook for Forest and Ranch Roads ” has been an very important and successful educational tool and useful as an aid in achieving compliance in excess sediment control.  All agencies noted above should have copies of the “Handbook” for education and distribution.

Basin Plan Amendment – Stream and Wetland Protection – To provide Basin Wide policy, objectives, and prohibitions  – including narrative objectives for watershed hydrology dealing with infiltration capacity, stream channel equilibrium, floodplain connectivity, riparian vegetation, and wetland structure – all necessary attributes to be considered for successful protection of stream and wetland water quality resources on the north coast. When a successful guidance document is produced an outreach program will facilitate understanding and progression towards compliance in activities the will take place respecting stream and wetland desired attributes.

Waste Discharge Reports, Conditional  Waivers, as Controls for different land uses and ownership’s – This includes development of Watershed Wide WDRs (or Conditional Waivers),  Land Use Specific WDRs (or Waivers), e.g. WDRs (or Waivers) for Timber Harvest Operations – by ownership or watershed wide.

Timber Harvest (WDRs and Conditional Waivers) – Timber Harvest is the predominant land use on most of the sediment impaired listed north coast waterbodies. Inappropriate harvesting and related activity is noted to be a major cause of sediment impairment in these waterbodies (see EPA/NOAA findings – included) and other Scientific Review Panel reports to the Board of Forestry). Thus, Timber Harvest activity should receive significant review and consideration under the Work  Plan tasks and activities enumerated.

WDRs and Conditional Waivers for Timber Harvest Operations have been found to have some notable loopholes or inconsistencies that need repair.  One example is Non-Industrial Timber Harvest Plans (NTMPs). NTMPs  involves permanent approval of Timber Harvest on non-industrial lands less than 2,500 acres. Exemption for NTMPs from many of the Conditions present in regular Timber Harvest Conditional Waivers  are erroneously justified on the assumption that NTMPs are less damaging applications of timber harvest activity (i.e. clear-cuts are not allowed).  With NTMPs  evenaged silviculture (clear-cuts) may not be permitted. However, permitted silvicultural prescriptions (Alternative  Prescription, Rehabilitation, and sometimes Variable Retention) can all have (as it is often the case) the same net effects as clear-cutting activity. In addition NTMPs are subject to the same erosion propensity as any Timber Harvest Plan – with similar road construction and harvest activity (including frequency of entry) as any standard Timber Harvest Plan.

In addition, and in regard to timber harvest activity, the Regional Board should continue to comment on rule making by the Board of Forestry and the Department of Fish and Game regarding Impaired Waters Policy and Coho Recovery Guidelines. The Regional Board should strongly support the current Forest Practice Rules for Threatened and Impaired Waterbodies. These Threatened and Impaired Rules provide needed additional protections to aid in limiting sediment inputs from Timber Harvest Activity (See CDF Hillslope monitoring).

Other Regional Tasks Underway – or – Should be Underway –  Regional Board participation and comment on land use projects that could, if not mitigated properly, have adverse affects on water quality values (including the production of excess sediment). Regional Board participation in the development of  General Plans, Stormwater Plans, Grading Ordinance, and other non-point source control programs, 401 Certification, etc.. These activities are necessary to make progress limiting the production of excess sediment. Such participation in these processes by the Regional Board is effective in and consistent with the goal of limiting  the production of sediment (and other pollutants).

Interagency Training –  One  effective component of successful solicitation of other responsible agency cooperation would be interagency training. It is often the case (with the divergent missions and mind sets of different agency staff) that there is failure or less successful outcomes due to communication failure. CAG has, for many years, advocated for interagency staff training (or cross-training) for the various agency staff to gain a better grasp on mission needs and objectives – with the final outcome being better cooperation and more success in attaining objectives related to tasks. This can be added to a task activity in outreach.

Waterbody Specific Work Plan Tasks/Actions (where CAG is taking an active role)

Garcia River (p.109) –  Continue to Implement the Garcia River TMDL Action Plan.  This seems reasonable as the Garcia River has the only enforceable Action Plan with default land use and stream protection criteria – and/or – the option for land owners to develop their own sediment control criteria. Due to the implementation of this policy the Garcia River is showing measurable improvement. (See Attached letter from NMFS). Other empirical evidence of success is the return of fish (See Garcia River – A TMDL Success Story – in RB file) that have not been seen for generations.

Garcia River Tasks as outlined are appropriate.

Gualala River (p.112) – The Gualala River has a completed EPA Technical TMDL. The Gualala River, a sister river to the Garcia with very similar historic land use (mostly Timber Harvest), geology, and erosion potential (high erosion propensity) is suffering greatly from the lack of protective measures in the form of an Action Plan  (or Basin Plan Amendments for Control of Excess Sediment and Stream and Wetland protection – to fill the gap of Action Plan absence).  Timber Harvest is by far the major land use. Timber harvest roads are a major sediment source (see p. 113).  The task of funding restoration projects seems wasteful – until such protections for streams and road construction are put in place to assure the long term success of such restoration.  Ownership-wide WDRs for the major timber operators in the Gualala is a good idea an energy and staff time should be mobilized to accomplish this task. However one major ownership has been left off the WDR task list – Coastal Ridges, an historic owner linked to historic and continuing impacts from excess sediment production.

Regional Board staff time would help the Gualala River if directed towards other land use activity allowing for sediment impacts from the following activity: Forestland conversion to vineyard use, road construction for agricultural and residential use, transportation road construction and maintenance. Regional Board staff time could be directed towards participation in the review of the above noted projects and  the development of Sonoma County and Mendocino County Grading Ordinance and Stormwater Plans.

Most Gualala River Tasks outlined (except as noted above) are appropriate.

The Gualala River  watershed is subject to an EPA technical TMDL with no associated action plan. Thus, attainment of Water Quality Standards is entirely dependent on successful completion and implementation of tasks as outlined in the Work Plan.

Development of the Klamath River TMDL for Sediment, Temperature, Nutrients, and lack of Dissolved Oxygen (p.123) – This complex TMDL (an understatement) is just getting under way. Issues related to getting a good working TMDL and Action/Implementation Plan include having the staff, funding, and necessary science to produce a good TMDL.  Agreement with the EPA for a time extension to accomplish this TMDL is pending (CAG believes such time extension will be approved).

Development of the Russian River TMDL (Including Laguna de Santa Rosa) for Sediment, Temperature, Nutrients, and lack of Dissolved Oxygen (p.162) – This TMDL to be developed by the Regional Board in the near future might be the most complex TMDL project of all (Klamath issues are also complex and cover more area – with less development and competing land uses). The Russian River, from it sources and tributaries and including the Laguna de Santa Rosa, is suffering (as documented) from excess inputs of excess sediment. The problem with the Russian River is that the drainage is subject to so many types of development – Road construction, industrial development and construction, residential development and construction, dams (including illegal water impoundments),  timber harvest, and agricultural land uses are all producing sediment impacts diminishing water quality values. Assessment and allocation of responsibility to specific sources is going to be difficult.

Outreach will be a major component in the hierarchy of tasks.  In addition the Basin Plan Amendments for Sediment Control and Stream and Wetland Protection should be an acknowledged necessity in making progress in addressing excess sediment inputs.

Regional Board staff time would help the Russian River, and tributaries, if directed towards addressing issue in the varied  land use activity allowing for sediment impacts – including the following activities: Forestland conversion to vineyard use, road construction for agricultural and residential use, transportation road construction and maintenance. Regional Board staff time could be directed at participation in the review of the above noted projects and  the development of Sonoma County and Mendocino County Grading Ordinance and Stormwater Plans.

Due to limited restoration and 319h grant funds available, restoration projects should be assessed for potential for long term success. Support for granting funds in areas where protections are absent and moneys spent may have diminished success in objective attainment due to lack of protection or other threats should be limited.

Russian River Tasks as outlined in Table 37 (p.163) are appropriate

Scott River (p. 174) – The Scott River watershed is suffering from inputs of excess sediment for timber harvest and other anthroprogenic sources.  The Regional Board has developed an Action Plan with tasks listed in Table 38. The tasks are appropriate. However, reliance for success of this depends on other actions, programs and tasks noted in the Work Plan – Including – WDRs, Conditional Waivers,  yet to be seen water studies and Grading Ordinance Development.  Completion of Regional Tasks (including the Basin Plan Amendment for Sediment and Stream and Wetland Protection) would be a significant aid in attaining the goals noted in the State promulgated TMDL.

Shasta River (not in Work Plan) – The Shasta River watershed is suffering from inputs of excess sediment for timber harvest and other anthroprogenic sources.  The Regional Board has developed an Action Plan with tasks (not in Work Plan). Reliance for success of the State promulgated TMDL depends on other actions, programs and tasks noted in the Work Plan – Including – WDRs, Conditional Waivers,  yet to be seen water studies and Grading Ordinance Development.  Completion of Regional Tasks (including the Basin Plan Amendment for Sediment and Stream and Wetland Protection) would be a significant aid in attaining the goals noted in the State promulgated TMDL.

Rivers With EPA Technical TMDLs and No Action Plan

Albion River  (p. 35) – The Albion River watershed is suffering from excess sediment inputs – mostly from Timber Harvest and road related sources.  This watershed is subject to an EPA technical TMDL with no associated Action Plan. Thus, attainment of Water Quality Standards is entirely dependent on successful completion and implementation of tasks as outlined in the Work Plan.

Big River (p. 40) – The Big River watershed is suffering from excess sediment inputs – mostly from Timber Harvest and road related sources.  This river is subject to an EPA technical TMDL with no associated action plan. Thus, attainment of Water Quality Standards is entirely dependent on the work load tasks as outlined in the Work Plan.

Eel River (various segments) (p.46) – The Eel River watershed is suffering from excess sediment inputs –  from a combination of areas with Timber Harvest and road related sources and some areas with excessively high rates of  natural erosion with additional anthroprogenic sources.  The Eel River, and it’s tributaries – including the Van Duzen River,  is subject to an EPA technical TMDL with no associated action plan. Thus, attainment of Water Quality Standards is entirely dependent on successful completion and implementation of tasks as outlined in the Work Plan.

Gualala River – Conditions and actions on the Gualala River are discussed above. .  This watershed is subject to an EPA technical TMDL with no associated Action Plan. Thus, attainment of Water Quality Standards is entirely dependent on successful completion and implementation of tasks as outlined in the Work Plan.

Mad River (p.127) – The Mad River watershed is suffering from excess sediment inputs – mostly from Timber Harvest and road related sources.  This watershed is subject to an EPA technical TMDL with no associated Action Plan. Thus, attainment of Water Quality Standards is entirely dependent on successful completion and implementation of tasks as outlined in the Work Plan.

Mattole River (p.134) – The Mattole River watershed is suffering from excess sediment inputs – mostly from Timber Harvest and road related sources.  This watershed is subject to an EPA technical TMDL with no associated Action Plan. Thus, attainment of Water Quality Standards is entirely dependent on successful completion and implementation of tasks as outlined in the Work Plan.

Navarro River (p.141) – The Navarro River watershed is suffering from excess sediment inputs – from a combination of sources with Timber Harvest, road related, and agricultural sources and some areas with excessively high rates of  natural erosion.  This watershed subject to an EPA technical TMDL with no associated Action Plan. Thus, attainment of Water Quality Standards is entirely dependent on successful completion and implementation of tasks as outlined in the Work Plan.

Noyo River (p.147) – The Noyo River watershed is suffering from excess sediment inputs – from a combination of areas with Timber Harvest and road related sources and some areas with excessively high rates of  natural erosion.  This watershed subject to an EPA technical TMDL with no associated Action Plan. Thus, attainment of Water Quality Standards is entirely dependent on successful completion and implementation of tasks as outlined in the Work Plan.

Redwood Creek (p.154) – The Redwood Creek watershed is suffering from excess sediment inputs – mostly from Timber Harvest, management (agricultural), and road related sources.  This watershed is subject to an EPA technical TMDL with no associated Action Plan. Thus, attainment of Water Quality Standards is entirely dependent on successful completion and implementation of tasks as outlined in the Work Plan.

Ten Mile River (p,190) –  The Ten Mile River watershed is suffering from excess sediment inputs – mostly from Timber Harvest and road related sources.  This watershed is subject to an EPA technical TMDL with no associated Action Plan. Thus, attainment of Water Quality Standards is entirely dependent on successful completion and implementation of tasks as outlined in the Work Plan.

Trinity River  (various segments) (p.195) – The Trinity River watershed is suffering from excess sediment inputs – mostly from Timber Harvest and road related sources – with high natural background levels.  This watershed is subject to an EPA technical TMDL with no associated Action Plan. Thus, attainment of Water Quality Standards is entirely dependent on successful completion and implementation of tasks as outlined in the Work Plan.

Note: The watersheds noted in this section, plus others with uncompleted TMDLs or suffering from excess sediment loading but are not listed are not subject to any specific pollutant reduction program (i.e. TMDL Action Plan or other abatement program or planning). These watersheds would benefit greatly, or recovery of beneficial uses is dependent on programs and tasks as described in the Sediment Work Plan. Failure to support such actions, programs, and tasks with action or necessary funding will greatly inhibit the possibility of these watersheds to recover and meet Water Quality Standards – as required by both State and Federal mandates.

Work product tasks, as noted in the Work Plan, are appropriate and essential.

REGIONAL BOARD WORK PLAN TO CONTROL SEDIMENT IN SEDIMENT-IMPAIRED WATERSHEDS

The work load outline and budgetary needs (some of which is outlined and discussed, briefly,  above) as outlined in the Work Plan are quite robust and of necessity in getting these tasks moving forward and completed as part of our goal of achieving  improvement of water quality in our north coast rivers, streams, and wetlands. Without funding to help support these needed tasks it will be very difficult to accomplish these goals.

Forecasting the needed personnel and setting out a list of tasks and schedule is essential in planing activities and actions necessary to address sediment control issues. for the Board to make. you get the needed personnel.  The Board has recognized its  obligation to identify waters not in compliance as well as obligation to address the impairments under federal and state law. Guidelines for activities for sediment control and stream and wetland protection would be accomplished in the Basin Plan Sediment Amendment and Basin Plan Stream and Wetland Protection Amendment.

Prioritization of projects, actions, and tasks should allow for an orderly and economic progression to attaining Water Quality Standards.

Approval of policy and Work Plan attributes should be accomplished in the context of meeting the needs all state and federal mandates (noted above) and be consistent with the goal of meeting Basin Plan Objectives – including Anti-degradation language that states that controllable pollutant sources shall be controlled if possible and additional pollutant introduction into impaired waterbodies is not permissible.

Comments submitted for Coast Action Group by _______________________________

Alan Levine