Sample of Complaint to the Reg. Water Quality Control Boards

Good going Felice.

This sort of Complaint should be sent to the Regional Board in all cases where remediation and cooperation from the Board is not forthcoming. 

Please try and work with Board staff – first though. 




Below you will see the sort of compliant which I would like to see being submitted on the Northcoast/Klamath in the tens and hundreds during/after each major storm event. 

We can train volunteers to do this sort of thing and we can create templates for such complaints that make it easy. Maybe if we did this in a coordinated manner we could “persuade” the NCWQCB to require common sense road stewardship. Imagine the reaction there if a hundred of these came in after the next storm!

Riverkeepers:  I can put on this training for you; if you are interested give me a call. 

This is my vision for programs like Riverkeeper – a watershed stewards network approach can accomplish so much more that the over-individualized version which is more common. 

The reason I favor the citizens network model is that – in my experience -it is more effective than the more typical top down/litigation dominated approach. Too many of the lawsuits “won” by environmentalists have little or no impact on what really happens on the ground. Northcoast sediment is an example: we’ve listed the watersheds, we filed the TMDL lawsuits, we even got implementation plans! But in the vast majority of cases this has NOT resulted in the pervasive sediment impairment of Northcoast/Klamath watersheds being adequately addressed. Where the impacts have been addressed (the Garcia R) it is because there have been activists hounding NCWQCB board and staff throughout the process. These are not just legacy issues – the roads are part of the ongoing infrastructure on the landscape. Until they are adequately addressed – including maintenance requirements – the sediment impairment will continue.


Felice Pace

28 Maple Road          Klamath, Ca. 95548          707-482-0354

March 17, 2009

Catherine Kuhlman, EO


Via e-mail to:

SUBJECT:       Unnatural sediment discharge from Hunter, Wilson and Terwar Creeks in Del Norte County: 1. Report of waste discharge; 2. Request for investigation; 3. Request for remediation action; 4 Request for information


Dear Ms. Kuhlman:

On March 16, 2002 I observed and documented photographically unnatural discharge of sediment from Wilson Creek, Hunter Creek and Terwar Creek into the Pacific Ocean (Wilson) and the Klamath River (Hunter and Terwar). Examples of photo documentation of this event are attached. 

The day I observed the sediment discharges I recorded 2.2 inches of rain at my home in Klamath Glen not far from Terwar Creek. The day before (March 15) I recorded 3.23 inches of rain. 

This sort of storm/precipitation occurs nearly every year at least once along the Redwood Coast. In fact, we had a storm with similar precipitation totals in late December 2008.  Therefore it is not the storm which was “unnatural” but the massive amounts of sediment delivered to the Klamath River and the Pacific Ocean. At the outlet of Wilson Creek the ocean itself was turned brown due to the discharge of sediment from the creek. 

1. Report of waste discharge

The Lower Klamath River is listed pursuant to section 303 d of the Clean Water Act as “impaired” by sediment. The no-further-degradation provision of the Basin Plan states:           

“Controllable water quality factors shall conform to the water quality objectives contained herein. When other factors result in the degradation of water quality beyond the levels or limits established herein as water quality objectives, then controllable factors shall not cause further degradation of water quality. Controllable water quality factors are those actions, conditions, or circumstances resulting from man’s activities that may influence the quality of the waters of the State and that may be reasonably controlled” (Basin Plan @3-1.00).

In addition the Basin Plan includes a Sediment Implementation Policy. The NCWQCB describes the Policy thus:

“The Sediment TMDL Implementation Policy states that Regional Water Board staff shall control sediment pollution by using existing permitting and enforcement tools.  The goals of the Policy are to control sediment waste discharges to impaired water bodies so that the TMDLs are met, sediment water quality objectives are attained, and beneficial uses are no longer adversely affected by sediment” (NCWQCB Website).

2. Request for Investigation

Please investigate this discharge event immediately while it is still in progress. Research, experience on the Northcoast and the findings in your own sediment TMDLs all indicate that the source of the sediment events underway in these watersheds are predominantly unsurfaced and gravel surfaced roads.  Goggle Earth reveals a network of such roads in all three watersheds. Please investigate this event promptly using cooperators as necessary and identify each source of sediment delivery to the 3 streams. 

3. Request for Remediation Action

Please order parties responsible for the sediment events reported here (which violate the Basin Plan) to take the appropriate remedial actions necessary to prevent the sites identified as the source of the current sediment event from delivering sediment in similar future storm events.   

Please also order landowners responsible for these sediment events to inspect their unsurfaced and gravel roads after each major (2 year) storm event and at the end of the rainy season, to report sediment delivery problem areas to the NCWQCB and to remediate the sites identified in a timely manner. 

The sort of road stewardship requested above is the only way to achieve the reductions in sediment delivery to streamcourses necessary to address sediment impairment of the Lower Klamath River, the Scott River and other sediment impaired watersheds and to restore sediment damaged beneficial uses of these waters. The NCWQCB’s failure to include these sorts of common sense stewardship responsibilities (inspection and corrective action following storm events and the wet season) in the instruments you are using to address sediment impairment dooms these efforts to failure.  No amount of “stormproofing” can substitute for this sort of common-sense road stewardship.  Please address this flaw in the instruments you are using in order to control sediment delivery.  

4 Request for Information

Please instruct staff assigned to investigate and remediate this complaint and request for action to keep me informed as they perform their assigned duties. I would like to be informed of:

  1. Result of the investigation: what sources of the sediment were identifies?
  2. The remediation ordered to address the sediment delivery and to prevent future delivery.
  3. Verification by staff that the required remediation has been accomplished in a timely and adequate manner.

I also request that you or the appropriate member of your staff inform me of why the sort of common sense road stewardship practices suggested above are not being included in the instruments you are using (watershed wide WDRs, etc.) to address the pervasive sediment impairments on the Northcoast/Klamath. Please also tell me what other provisions you believe have the same effect and why the NCWQCB believes the sort of common-sense road stewardship practices suggested herein are not necessary. 

Thank you for your prompt attention to this complaint and request for action. It is likely that the recent storm event not only delivered massive amounts of sediment but primed road locations for additional delivery in future storm events. Therefore your prompt action can prevent future sediment delivery to these streams and to the Klamath River. 


Felice Pace