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A Grass Roots community organization comprised of residents and visitors to the Van Duzen Region. We are Dedicated to helping to restore the river for future Generations

Watershed-wide waste discharge an issue in Elk, Freshwater

Watershed-wide waste discharge an issue in Elk, Freshwater
by Glenn Franco Simmons The Eureka Reporter 2/24/05

The next challenge for The Pacific Lumber Co. will probably be
watershed-wide waste discharge requirements that could limit where and
when it logs.

In December 2003, the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board
directed its executive officer to create a watershed-wide waste
discharge requirement for the Elk and Freshwater watersheds, according
to PALCO President and Chief Executive Officer Robert Manne.

"WWWDRs have never been done before and it took the water board staff
over six months to define exactly what they wanted in our reports of
waste discharge ...," Manne said. "Last June we finally received the
detailed definition of what they wanted in the final report. In that
same letter, they gave us one month to respond. It was massive and we
spent a lot of money. It took the best efforts of our top scientists to
provide the requested information and data. We finally completed our
report in October 2004.

"It has not been easy, as the water board staff continues, to this day,
asking for more and new data and information. It seems as if they are
learning as they go and keep changing their mind as to what data they
need. ..."

Water board Executive Director Catherine Kuhlman said PALCO's waste
discharge requirements were the first the board dealt with. She admitted
that PALCO was the guinea pig for the new plans.

However, she said some of the data the board recently received from
PALCO was information the board had requested three years earlier.

Kuhlman said the requirements were implemented because the board's staff
felt it was easier to deal with cumulative issues such as landslides and
flooding on a watershed-wide basis, rather than dealing with these
issues individually in each timber harvest plan.

"It is better science and better policy," Kuhlman said. "It saves time
and streamlines the process of individual permitting."

"The water board has been trying to get these permits in place for well
over a year now, but PL has consistently sabotaged the process," said
Mark Lovelace, president of the Humboldt Watershed Council. "PL is
trusting that, by manufacturing a crisis, they can make the water board
back down so that PL can continue to operate under the status quo. ..."

"The latest information we have is that the (executive officer) and her
staff will be presenting their final WWWDR at a board meeting in
mid-April," Manne said. "These upcoming discussions will not be easy
since we envision large differences of opinion between our model and the
water board's staff's model.

"The protective measures we have been employing as a result of our
(habitat conservation plan) and our science are showing that these
watersheds are improving. The water board staff is not willing to accept
and even consider our science at this point. Despite the fact that the
board directed them otherwise, they appear focused on only one simple
rate-of-harvest solution in these two watersheds. All the other federal
and state regulatory agencies are just as frustrated as we are that the
staff refuses to accept the great science of the HCP and its positive

Lovelace disagrees and said PL has damaged the watersheds.

"It's not a matter of harm being 'alleged,'" Lovelace said in response
to The Eureka Reporter's question. "PL has stipulated to the fact that
their logging has caused harm to these (downstream) residents. It is not
in debate. PL is currently under numerous clean-up and abatement orders
which require them to repair the damage their operations have done in
these watersheds.

"A study by the (water board) has shown that the channel capacity of the
Elk River has been reduced by 60 percent. At the same time, the amount
of water coming off of the hillsides has increased. So there is more and
more water going into a smaller and smaller channel. With nowhere to go,
it overflows the banks and floods the surrounding properties."

And Lovelace sees the requirements differently.

"Watershed-wide waste discharge requirements ... are an effective way to
truly address cumulative impacts of PL's collective operations in these
watersheds," he said. "By addressing the sum total of all of PL's
logging, WWWDRs allow the regional water board to determine how much
(harvesting) is simply too much. The WWWDRs will not prevent PL from
logging, but simply limit their logging to a level which will allow
these damaged watersheds to recover, and provide relief for the
residents who live there."

Manne said the California Forestry Department has already placed an
annual acreage limit on PALCO in the Elk and Freshwater watersheds.

"The Forest Practice Rules are simply inadequate and ineffective for
protection and recovery of water quality," Lovelace said. "The FPRs and
CDF are simply incapable of diagnosing cumulative impacts and have no
mandate to bring about recovery."

Lovelace was also critical of PALCO's HCP.

"PL likes to talk about their habitat conservation plan as if it is
designed to improve environmental protection," Lovelace said. "In fact,
the HCP is designed only to ease regulation for PL, and to allow them to
get at timber in places where it had previously been difficult to obtain
regulatory approval.

"There should be no presumption on anyone's part that the HCP provides
increased protection for any species. In addition, and more to the
point, the HCP was never designed or intended to be a water-quality
document, and the regional water board is not a signatory to it. It is
ultimately irrelevant to any discussion of water quality."

Manne said the main debate will probably center on the water board using
what he said is a simplified sediment model that PALCO feels is "totally
inadequate because it lacks the comprehensiveness to deal with all the
variables that need to be considered in the final solution set."

"It's just too simple of a model and outdated," Manne said.

Manne said PALCO believes it has something to offer scientifically, but
he would like to see the water board and its staff "become a little more
collaborative in their approach."

"If we can get all our Ph.Ds. in a room with all of their scientists, we
would be able to design a great, workable model and solution for these
watersheds," he said. "Right now, it's being done totally behind closed
doors by the staff and that is not the most productive way to do it. We
need more dialogue if this effort is going to be less combative than in
the past. It has not been collaborative; the opposite has been the
norm," Manne said.

Kuhlman said that since she started with the water board more than a
year ago, there has been a perception from others that there hasn't been
collaboration between the board and PALCO.

"They perceive us as being ideologues," Kuhlman said. "We have a lot of
reasons to collaborate with PALCO and the community."

"The water board is subjecting PALCO to unique and arbitrary standards
that literally ignore our HCP and are being only imposed on us and not
on any others," Manne said. "How can you explain that? I certainly cannot."

Friends of the Van Duzen River
PO Box 315
Carlotta, CA 95528
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