Update on Fish Flow (low flow) Project……
The Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA) had been working on responses to comments regarding Fish Flow (low flow) Project since comments were submitted on March 10, 2017, as required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Recently, SCWA staff announced that there would be a revision to the comment response schedule. When questioned further, senior staff informed us privately of the following (no official announcement yet):
• The State Water Board staff requested that SCWA make major revisions to the document in order to clarify technical computer model analyses, but there may be other changes requested as well. We have no details as yet.
• In response to legal conflicts between the Endangered Species Act which protects the salmon (low flow will supposedly provide betters habitat for the fish), and the North Coast Basin Plan which prohibits bio-stimulatory substances to be discharged that lead to toxic algae,
State Board staff appear to be requiring that much broader issues be addressed in regard to water quality, flows, etc. Water Agency staff indicated that a broader DEIR will need to demonstrate that low flow will not degrade water quality in the lower river. The Biological Opinion failed to take the overall environment into account and the State Water Board is required to make sure ALL impacts are addressed.
• State will continue to grant Temporary Urgency Change Petitions allowing low flow (as described in Biological Opinion and in past RRWPC letters (website: www.rrwpc.org ) of 70-85 cfs as measured at Hacienda, between May 15th and October 15th annually.
• Because changes to document are likely to be extensive, SCWA will likely have to recirculate the document for comments on the changes.
This is all we know for now, but will keep you posted as updates are circulated. (To receive updates between mailers, please send us your email address, if you have not done so already.) No meetings are planned at this time for the low flow issue, but the annual community meeting for the Estuary Management Plan will be held in Jenner on May 31st from 6 pm to 7:30 pm at the Jenner Community Club (behind the gas station in town).
Update on New Septic Regulations….
Last month we sent out information on proposed new septic regulations. The County Planning Department (PRMD) held a meeting March 30th on the proposed LAMP revisions. Some of the key changes discussed at the meeting are as follows:
• County will require septic inspections and upgrades when either a complaint is filed about a failing system, or when a permit is requested for structural work (not including new roofs, fences, replacement windows). County will not enter property to inspect without permission. (Inspection will be required with permit application however.) See following for more information: https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/water_issues/programs/owts/index.html
• Regional Board does have authority to go on property and inspect but they don’t plan to unexpectedly show up at your front door. They will start by sending a letter to property owners in Monte Rio, Northwood, Villa Grande, & Camp Meeker) asking about type of system on property. Cesspools will no longer be allowed and will require upgrades, especially within 100’ of impaired river bank. Contractors will no longer be allowed to design leachfields (dispersal systems), but rather a licensed soil engineer will be required to study and report on property soils and ability to treat waste within 2 feet of ground water. This is required because in the past, it had never been determined whether soils in given locations were actually treating the septic waste. It was assumed that accepted technologies were adequate, but then discovered to not always be the case.
• Contractors will be allowed to install new septic tanks. Several people in the audience at the meeting strenuously objected to the way these new requirements are being implemented. Staff responded that people will be given a fair amount of time to comply. Also, county staff stated that no one was ever thrown out of their house for not meeting septic regulations. Both PRMD and Regional Board staffs plan to work with people on compliance issues. Numerous issues need to be worked out further.
• A new Citizens Advisory Committee has just been appointed including 8 members who will soon select 4 more members out of 26 applications. Yours truly has been appointed to the committee and will pass key information on to our supporters. We are convinced that this project cannot be stopped altogether, but we aim to do all we can to assure those who implement it make it user friendly and provide support to those who cannot afford expensive upgrades.
• County is under deadline to approve LAMP revisions by May 8th, which is the date of the meeting this will be considered by the Board of Supervisors. It would then go to the Regional Board to be folded in to the Basin Plan Amendment and the completion of the pathogen TMDL. (Total Maximum Daily Load). Google Sonoma County Board of Supervisors’ website for Board meeting agenda a few days before to find out details.
Santa Rosa’s move to eliminate ‘No Net Phosphorus’….
Most of the lower Russian River exceeds recommended phosphorus levels all summer long. Phosphorus is a key contributor to summer algae production, along with low flow and warm water. In 2006 the Regional Board added a requirement to Santa Rosa’s permit that no net increase of phosphorus be discharged into the impaired Laguna. Most years Santa Rosa doesn’t discharge at all because their treated wastewater (which contains phosphorus) goes to the Geysers steam fields in winter. In years when we have a lot of precipitation however, discharges occur. In 2016-17 the city discharged 1.3 billion gallons of wastewater into the Laguna.
There are two ways Santa Rosa can meet the discharge requirement. They can upgrade their system to remove most of the phosphorus, an expensive proposition, or they can take part in a nutrient credit trading program where they pay others to do phosphorus removal projects (that are not otherwise regulated). An elaborate credit trading system has been proposed that we cannot describe here, but Santa Rosa thinks it is too much trouble and expense. They have continued to fight it since proposed. They have lost lawsuits against the Regional Board and are now looking for alternatives to their permit requirements, which are unlikely to be changed. Sometime this year, the Regional Board should resolve this issue and we will keep you informed.
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Switch to first class mail has gone well and will be continued….
You might notice there is first class postage on the mailer’s outer envelope. It turns out that it costs only slightly more than Bulk Mail. We have had serious problems with the latter lately, but letters were returned free of charge from last mailer that also had fowarding addresses on them. Hurrah!
RRWPC needs your continuing support!
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