CAG Triennial Review of RWB Policy Comment

To All,

The following is a comment letter by Coast Action Group (CAG) on the Regional Water Board’s policy review.  Alan has done a great job of synthesizing the policy issues. This is an opportunity for anyone to support CAG’s comments here or pick and choose issues from these.  Like any comments on policy, the more the better, especially when it comes from an informed position.  Thank you for reading this and hopefully acting on it.

Larry

COAST ACTION GROUP

P.O. BOX 215
POINT ARENA, CA 95468

June 1, 2011

Catherine Kuhlman, Executive Officer
Regional Water Quality Control Board
North Coast Region
5550 Skylane Blvd.
Santa Rosa, CA

Subject: Triennial Review

Coast Action group is a non-membership organization of interested parties concerned with water quality issues on the north coast.  CAG has a very extensive history of involvement in State and Federal mechanisms and mandates directed at maintaining the quality of California’s water resources – Including but not limited to: Impaired Waters Listing Policy, TMDLs, NPDES, Waste Discharge Requirements and related Categorical Waivers, and Basin Plan Amendments.

General

The Triennial River offers opportunity for Regional Board to assess and entertain consideration of  plans. policy, and programs  and  make determination of resource emphasis and  provide direction to staff on how to proceed with actions and policy to set and accomplish Board goals in compliance with the mission and responsibility of the Board.

There is a history (backlog) of Regional Board priorities and actions the need to be assessed and prioritized for completion.

Uncompleted projects:

These projects are underway and should be completed

·       Stream and Wetland Protection  Policy – Basin Plan Amendment with prohibitions and/or new water quality objectives.  This item has been sidelined – but is important for protection of beneficial uses and recovery of impaired waterbodies.

·       Sediment Control Basin Plan Amendment – with prohibitions. This item has been sidelined – but is important for protection of beneficial uses and recovery of impaired waterbodies.

·       Policy for develop regulatory endpoints for narrative standards – to be amended into the Basin Plan

New Issues to be Considered

·       Temperature policy – Numerous north coast streams are listed as temperature impaired (including – Russian River, Mad River, Klamath River, Gualala River, Garcia River, Ten Mile River. Navarro River, Eel River).  Under State responsibility to develop TMDLs and Implementing Programs to address temperature issues the Board should direct resources to establish policy to recover Water Quality Standards on impaired segments – and – to protect properly functioning resources from degradation.  The temperature issue is complicated. Factors effecting stream temperature include flows, near stream ambient temperature, streamside shading and solar radiation effects, and sedimentation. Timber Harvest near stream related temperature effects will be addressed with the review of the Forest Practice Act Anadromous Salmonid Protection Rules (which are temporary and insufficient to protect beneficial uses – see NMFS and DFG comment/discussion ). These factors must be addressed in policy development.

·       Russian River TMDL – This TMDL is underway and needs to be completed ( this TMDL should possibly should be under the heading of uncompleted projects).   Flow considerations, temperature, pathogen,  nutrient, and     invasive exotic hytrophytes may set new standards for TMDLs.  Implementing Programs, with enforceable standards, will need to be developed to address pollutant input issues.

·       Statements or Policy regarding ground water protection – interface of surface water conditions with groundwater conditions.

·       Flow relationship with Impaired Status – possible policy implications and TMDL implications – EPA has new paper on flow impairment (?)

·       NTMP suspension from WDR and Waiver – promptly  conclude assessment and make decisions on compliance – erosion control, road management, shade and stream temperature considerations.

Note: CAG is not commenting on the items below.

·       Elk and Freshwater TMDLs

·       Restoration policy

·       Editorial amendments

·       DO for the rest of the region beyond Klamath

·       Mixing zones

·       Hatcheries

The areas of consideration, noted above, are important issues and projects needed to address issues leading to a loss in water quality – non-attainment of Water Quality Standards resulting in the listing of most north coast rivers as impaired on the State of California Impaired Water Quality Limited Segments/CWA 303(d) list.

The Regional and State Water Quality Control Board(s) have the responsibility to manage the State’s water resources to meet Water Quality Objectives and protect the Beneficial Uses described in the Basin Plan.  Impaired listing status and degraded resources necessitate goals and policy to be manifest in Implementing Programs and Basin Plan amendments to address impairment issues and the future attainment of desired goals –  Water Quality Standards

Impaired Waterbodies and the Basin Plan

Most of the north coast rivers are listed impaired for the pollutants sediment, temperature, nutrients, and the lack of Dissolved Oxygen (Russian River is listed for pathogens). There are many other north coast streams that are impaired but are not listed. These impaired listings, where Beneficial Uses are not being supported, are a result of inappropriate land use.  Goals and policy need to be directed and addressing outstanding and related issue related to impaired conditions.

The EPA promulgated TMDLs on the Albion, Gualala, Noyo, Ten Mile, and other rivers on the north coast are currently a responsibility of the Regional Board – where the State, Regional Board, is responsible to perform State TMDLs on these waterbodies and develop Implementing Programs  to support WQS attainment. Thus, consideration of how Regional Board workload emphasis directed, should be based on how the above noted projects and policies will address outstanding issues on these impaired waterbodies.

Basin Plan Anti-degradation Policy: “Controllable water quality factors shall conform to the water quality objectives contained [in the Basin Plan]. When other factors result in the degradation of water quality beyond the levels or limits established [in the Basin Plan] 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 waters of the State and that may reasonably be controlled.”

Goals and policy development should proceed in conformance with the above quoted Basin Plan Ant-degradation language. Such policy should be applied to groundwater.

The fact that water quality degradation  has occurred under existing Basin Plan prohibitions indicates that additional prohibitions (control language) are necessary. This is supported by the findings of the above EPA and State approved TMDLs indicating that specific land use practices are responsible for diminished water quality values. Also, the fact that recently approved Shasta , Scott River, and all future TMDLs are dependent on the development of such policy, as Implementing Programs, to be truly functional.