Posted on Categories Forests, WaterTags , , , , , , , ,

Downstream: How logging imperils the rivers of the North Coast

Will Parrish, NORTH BAY BOHEMIAN

As a long-time resident of the Elk River basin, which drains the redwood-studded hills southeast of Eureka, Jesse Noell lives in fear of the rain. During storms of even moderate intensity, the Elk River often rises above its banks and dumps torrents of mud and sand across Noell and his neighbors’ properties. The churning surges of foamy brown water have ruined domestic water supplies, inundated vehicles, buried farmland and spilled into homes.

It first happened to Noell and his wife, Stephanie, in 2002. As the flood approached, he remained inside his home to wedge bricks and rocks beneath their furniture, and pile pictures, books and other prized possessions atop cabinets and counters. The water level was at his thighs; his body spasmed in the winter cold. Across the street, two firefighters in a raft paddled furiously against the current, carrying his neighbors—military veterans in their 60s, who were at risk of drowning—to higher ground.

After crouching and shivering atop the kitchen counter through the night, Noell was finally able to wade through the floodwater to higher ground the next morning. But the home’s sheetrock, floors, heating equipment, water tanks, floor joints, girders and septic system were destroyed. This experience wasn’t an act of nature; it was manmade.

“California has a systematic and deliberate policy to flood our homes and properties for the sake of corporate profit,” Noell says.

CAUSE AND EFFECT

The cause of the flooding is simple: logging. Since the 1980s, timber companies have logged thousands of acres of redwood trees and Douglas firs, and constructed a spider web–like network of roads to haul them away, which has caused massive erosion of the region’s geologically unstable hillsides.The deep channels and pools of the Elk River’s middle reaches have become choked with a sludge of erosion and debris six to eight feet high. Each storm—such as those that have roiled California’s coastal rivers this past week—forces the rushing water to spread out laterally, bleeding onto residents’ lands and damaging homes, vehicles, domestic water supplies, cropland and fences, while also causing suffering that corporate and government balance sheets can’t measure.

“The Elk River watershed is California’s biggest logging sacrifice area,” says Felice Pace, a longtime environmental activist who founded the Klamath Forest Alliance in northernmost California.

For roughly 20 years, the North Coast division of the State Water Resources Control Board, the agency in charge of monitoring water quality and hazards in the area, has deliberated on how to address the Elk River’s severe impairment. But they have failed to take bold action, largely because of opposition from politically well-connected timber companies and the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire), the state agency that regulates commercial logging.

Read more at: Downstream | Features | North Bay Bohemian

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Restoring the Russian River’s water quality

William Massey, SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE

Public comment period ends October 8, 2015

We have promised it for years, and it is finally here. The North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Water Board) has just released its draft assessment and strategy to address water quality issues in the Russian River watershed.

The Russian River Watershed, from the headwaters north of Cloverdale to the mouth at Jenner, is a jewel of the North Coast Region, supporting a rich diversity of urban and rural values including family-friendly communities; outdoor recreation; renowned restaurants, wineries, and vacation opportunities; and economic opportunities ranging from farming to high tech.

The Regional Water Board strategy, called a total maximum daily load Action Plan (TMDL Action Plan), specifically focuses on ways to protect those who recreate in the Russian River Watershed by identifying and controlling all sources of insufficiently treated human and domestic animal waste from entering the water.  The Regional Water Board already implements a prohibition against the direct discharge of waste to the Russian River during the summer months.  But, the draft TMDL Action Plan augments the existing approach with potential solutions for controlling indirect discharges of waste, as well storm induced discharges that occur during the rainy season.

What is the Problem?

Water quality monitoring from the Russian River and its tributary creeks reflect widespread contamination with bacteria and other indicators of human and animal waste, which pose a potential threat to the health of the river ecosystem and the people who visit it.  Bacteria can indicate the presence of pathogenic organisms that are found in warm-blooded animal waste.  Data assessed by Regional Water Board staff show that some locations within the watershed have bacteria concentrations that indicate the potential presence of pathogens at levels that are higher than is safe for water contact recreation.

Read more at: Restoring the Russian River Water Quality

Posted on Categories Sustainable Living, WaterTags , , , , , ,

Water Board developing a plan to clean up disease-causing bacteria in the Russian River

Rebecca Fitzgerald & Charles Reed, SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE

Each year, the Russian River plays host to tens of thousands of residents and visitors who swim and recreate along its length, which extends from Redwood Valley, North of Ukiah to Jenner, where the river empties into the Pacific Ocean.

At the same time, the Russian River area is home to hundreds of thousands of human inhabitants and domesticated animals, who produce waste. Most of this domestic waste is collected, treated, beneficially reused, or discharged at a time and in a manner that is protective of public health and water quality. Much of this domestic waste is also controlled at its source by individuals through responsible personal behavior and good sanitary practices.

Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Water monitoring samples from the river show widespread contamination with bacteria and indicators of human waste, which pose a threat to the health of the river ecosystem and the people who visit it.

Reliance on existing regulatory actions and individual behavior is sometimes not sufficient to prevent domestic waste from being released in an uncontrolled manner into the environment. Once released, this material, which may include disease-causing microorganisms, inevitably makes its way to creeks and finally to the Russian River where it adversely impacts water quality, impairs the beneficial uses of creeks and the River, and presents a public health risk to individuals who come in contact with contaminated waters.

Often, the uncontrolled sources of waste are the result of the systemic failure to address human societal challenges like homelessness. Other times, contamination is the result of legacy practices, such as obsolete, substandard wastewater treatment systems. The simple lack of public awareness about the impacts of individual actions can also affect water quality.

Regardless of the root cause of contamination, it is the obligation of public agencies responsible for the protection of water quality and public health, to take actions to correct the condition. For these actions to be truly successfully and long-lasting, there must be participation, cooperation, and commitment from supporting state and local agencies, parties to whom corrective actions are assigned, and the general public.

Read much more via Troubled Waters: Water Board Developing a Plan to Cleanup Disease-causing Bacteria in the Russian River.