The North Coast Regional Water Board voted unanimously to adopt a revised water quality control permit for Humboldt Redwood Company and its ownership in the Upper Elk River watershed at a hearing in Eureka on June 19. The Regional Water Board’s revisions impose additional constraints on HRC’s timber operations and related activities in the Upper Elk River watershed in an effort to arrest sediment and other pollution inputs from HRC’s contemporary logging operations.
The North Coast Regional Water Board adopted a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), and TMDL Action Plan to address the ongoing impairment of the waters of the Upper Elk River resulting from past and contemporary timber harvest and related activities that have deposited hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of sediment in the Upper Elk River system. The 2016 Upper Elk River TMDL for sediment and the accompanying program of implementation establish a load allocation of “zero,” meaning the Upper Elk River watershed is currently overwhelmed with sediment to the point where no additional sediment inputs can occur without resulting in further damage to the quality and beneficial uses of water in the Upper Elk River.
On August 1, 2017, the State Water Resources Control Board ratified the Regional Board’s TMDL, with important clarifications, including clarifying that an anthropogenic zero load allocation to the extent feasible must be attained as soon as possible, but by no later than 2031. To accomplish this, the State Water Board directed the Regional Water Board to revisit and revise, as necessary the sediment pollution control permits (known as “Waste Discharge Requirements,”) for both HRC, and the other large industrial timberland owner in the Upper Elk River, Green Diamond Resource Company.
The Regional Board’s unanimous decision on June 19 moves HRC’s revisions forward with additional mitigation and constraints not previously required including tighter constraints on wet weather road construction and use, and heavy equipment use in wet weather periods. Road and heavy equipment use during wet weather and winter periods continues to be a major source of nonpoint source sediment pollution associated with timber harvest activities on private lands throughout the North Coast, including in the Upper Elk River watershed.
EPIC applauds the efforts made by the Regional Board and its staff in crafting tighter constraints for HRC and encourages the Regional Board to use the constraints and mitigations for the Upper Elk River adopted for HRC as guidance when considering proposed revisions for Green Diamond Resource Company in the Upper Elk River Watershed.