[env-trinity] Eureka Times Standard 9 8 2010
bwl3 at comcast.net
Wed Sep 8 17:54:02 PDT 2010
Officials approve Klamath water quality package; limits on pollution seen as
key to revitalizing river and its fish
By John Driscoll
State regulators on Tuesday unanimously approved a series of measures meant
to improve the often terrible water quality in the Klamath River.
The State Water Resources Control Board set limits on nutrients, algae and
water temperature over the objection of the owner of four dams on the
Klamath River. Pacificorp argued before the board in Sacramento Tuesday that
the guidelines were unrealistic, unfeasible and based on flawed models.
The regulations -- called Total Maximum Daily Loads, or TMDLs -- were
drafted by the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board's staff over
the course of years. They come in response to the federal government's
listing of the river as impaired, because the water is too warm and polluted
for salmon, for swimming and for tribal ceremonial uses.
The river was once the third most productive salmon fishery on the West
Coast, but it is now plagued by overly warm temperatures, huge algae blooms
-- especially in Upper Klamath Lake and in the reservoirs behind
Pacificorp's dams -- and excess sediment.
Regional board water quality engineer Matt St. John said that the TMDLs aim
is to control sources of pollutants and protect cool-water areas, called
thermal refugia, that are important to salmon. Among the measures would be
one to restrict suction dredge mining in the vicinity of these refugia. St.
John said that the plan to address the problems is flexible and based on the
best available science.
The limits are scheduled to be adopted by the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency at year's end, some 15 years after the Pacific Coast Federation of
Fishermen's Association sued to force the limits to be developed. Pacificorp
and more than two dozen tribes, environmental groups, fishing organizations
and agencies have agreed to remove the four dams should the U.S. Interior
secretary decide it is in the public interest.
Pacificorp counsel Robert Donlan said that the company is fully committed to
the dam removal effort, but objected to the TMDLs as written. He said that
Pacificorp isn't suggesting that the limits be thrown out altogether, but
that they need to be reworked to address what it sees as flawed assumptions.
He said that the board should not rush to complete the TMDLs to meet the EPA
"It is more important that the analysis be completed correctly rather than
quickly," Donlan said.
But Yurok Tribe water quality specialist Ken Fetcho said that the TMDLs are
only one step in restoring a river whose degraded condition has a severe
effect on tribal members and river and coastal communities.
"A restored river will benefit all people and industries that reside in the
Klamath Basin," Fetcho said.
Concerns were raised by Pacificorp and some state board members about how
the TMDL might affect a required water quality certification needed if the
Klamath dam removal agreements fall through and the dams stay in place.
Questions were also raised about the water quality certification that will
be needed if the dams are removed. Language was added toward the end of the
meeting that acknowledged that more analysis may be needed for those
EPA Regional Director Alexis Strauss said that the Klamath River is worthy
of the attention it is getting and that she is optimistic that the efforts
to restore the river will yield results. Strauss said that it will
undoubtedly take decades and a commitment by all parties to stay fully
"I think we're all filled with humility by the task that lies ahead,"
Byron Leydecker, JcT
Chair, Friends of Trinity River
PO Box 2327
Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327
415 383 4810 land/fax
415 519 4810 mobile
<mailto:bwl3 at comcast.net> bwl3 at comcast.net
<mailto:bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org> bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org
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