Water Board begins National Forest Clean Water Review
Most EcoNews readers are aware that Northwest California contains an abundance of national forest land. In Humboldt County, 34 percent of the land base is public land, with most being national forest administered by the US Forest Service. For Mendocino County, the figure is 20 percent, and Siskiyou County is 64 percent. Over 75 percent of Trinity and Del Norte County land is public. On the North Coast, national forests occupy the headwaters of our rivers; this makes them critical to maintaining the high quality cold water on which salmon and steelhead, as well as our river and tribal economies, depend.
The presence of public lands, much of it protected as wilderness, at our rivers’ headwaters should provide a guarantee of high water quality. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Water quality tests of headwaters wilderness streams conducted in recent years by the Quartz Valley Tribe have documented high levels of fecal coliform bacteria in streams flowing from wilderness lands which are grazed by cattle. At times water quality standards have been violated; unnaturally high levels of nutrient pollution have also been documented.
The pollution of wilderness headwater streams by grazing livestock is one reason the review of North Coast national forests’ Clean Water Act permits just getting underway is important. The Clean Water Act (CWA) should prevent the fouling of wilderness springs, as shown in the photo at right.
The CWA should also prevent the Forest Service from logging and hauling logs during wet weather. Logging—and especially hauling logs on dirt or gravel roads—delivers fine sediment to stream courses which are already listed as having water quality “impaired” by excessive amounts of sediment. Fine sediment fills the deep pools migrating salmon love and can render spawning gravel unsuitable for salmon and steelhead spawning. The photo below shows wet weather logging on the Klamath National Forest this past fall after heavy rain.
In California, as in most states, the Clean Water Act is administered by the state. Here in Northwest California the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board is responsible for assuring that Forest Service management of national forest lands does not result in violation of established water quality standards. The permit governing clean water oversight by the state must be renewed every five years. The latest renewal process is just getting under way.
Along with tribal and environmental allies, the North Group of the Redwood Chapter of the Sierra Club will be closely monitoring the permit renewal process and working to strengthen permit provisions so that the high quality water which should be flowing into our rivers from national forest streams is not polluted before it leaves the forest. Opportunities to weigh in for clean water will be announced in future EcoNews issues when the appropriate times come.
Tell North Coast Water Board officials you want them to adopt a national forest permit that will restore the high quality water you expect to flow from public lands. Contact Fred Blatt, the official responsible for assuring that the Forest Service complies with the Clean Water Act, via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: 707-576-2800.
The North Group offers the following hikes in September. All our hikes are open to the public. Contact hike leaders for more information:
Sunday, February 22—North Group Dry Lagoon-Stone Lagoon Hike. We will hike north along the beach, then turn inland past a variety of dense vegetation to the Stone Lagoon boat-in State Park campground, and return. Bring lunch. No dogs. Optional side trip to Sharp Point, by consensus. Andamos de la playa al bosque y volver. Bienvenidos todos! Class M-5-A. Carpools: Meet 9 am Ray’s shopping center in Valley West, trailhead 10 a.m. Dry Lagoon Day Use Area on Highway 101. Leader Ned, email@example.com, 825-3652. Heavy rain cancels.
Saturday, March 14—North Group Arcata Community Forest Fickle Hill-Diamond Dr. Hike. Join us for a spring stroll through the redwoods. Thrushes, trilliums, milkmaids and more. No dogs. Se habla poco Espanol. Class E-5-A. Meet 9 a.m. at Arcata Safeway parking lot, or Fickle Hill parking area 9:20. Leader Ned, firstname.lastname@example.org, 825-3652.
Sunday, March 29—North Group Redwood National Park Flint Ridge Section Coastal Trail Hike. Starting near site of former Douglas Memorial Bridge, we skirt an old log pond and ascend through magnificent redwood forest to ridge, then gradually drop to meet spur to backcountry campground, our lunch spot, with views through redwoods of coast below. Return by same route. Wear layers, hiking footwear; bring water and lunch. No dogs. Class M-9-B. Carpools: Meet 8:30 a.m. Ray’s, Valley West, 10 a.m. trailhead parking area off Alder Camp Rd. near junction with Klamath Beach Rd. Leader Melinda, 668-4275, email@example.com.