Water Board Buckles under Pressure in Fight to Protect Elk River
Flooded home. Courtesy of Elk River Residents.
Although the dust is still settling from the eight hours of hearing in Eureka last week, it is clear that the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board members chose to defer to acquiesce to pressure from Humboldt Redwood Company and CAL FIRE instead of protecting, people, property, and water quality in Upper Elk River. The Regional Board, after months of delay, finally acted to adopt a new water quality control permit for Humboldt Redwood Company’s timber operations in the Upper Elk River watershed last week, but the product approved represents a gutted shell of the proposal that was originally brought for by staff earlier this year. The new water quality control permit does not contain sufficient control measures to prevent sediment pollution and is unlikely to lead to the attainment of water quality objectives specified in the watershed remediation and recovery plan adopted by the Board for Upper Elk River in May 2016.
Last week represented the third attempt by the Regional Board to adopt new regulations to control sediment pollution from Humboldt Redwood Company timber operations in the severely impacted Upper Elk River watershed. The proposed order brought to the Board members for consideration by staff last week has been systematically watered-down with each failed attempt at adoption at the behest of Board members. Any remaining value to the Proposed Order was gutted by Board members, from the dais, via successive motions, with no opportunity for public input.
In May 2016, the Regional Board finally adopted a 14-year delinquent watershed remediation and recovery strategy, known as a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), in which it established that no further controllable sediment from human activities could be authorized due to the well-documented lack of capacity in the Upper Elk River to assimilate further pollution. Yet, the water quality control permit adopted by the Regional Board to control Humboldt Redwood Company timber operations and their contributions to sediment pollution in the watershed will clearly not attain the goal of a ‘zero’ addition to the sediment pollution problem.
EPIC has fought for Elk River for over 20 years and will continue to fight. EPIC and our allies are presently studying the order adopted last week and are evaluating possible redress options. EPIC will not stand by and allow the disinclination of individual Board members to regulate timber operations and their contributions to water quality pollution to win out over the mandates of the law, science, conscious, and plain common-sense.