RRWPC Letter to Regional Board on Nutrients, 7-26-2012

Mr. Matt St. John: Executive Officer
Mr. Charles Reed
North Coast Regional Board
5550 Skylane Blvd. #A
Santa Rosa, CA 95403

July 26, 2012

Dear Mr. St. John and Mr. Reed:

RRWPC is an interested party in the Nutrient Offset Policy for the City of Santa Rosa.  (RESOLUTION NO. R1-2008-0061)

Russian River Watershed Protection Committee (RRWPC) is a nonprofit public benefit corporation that has been tracking water quality issues for the last 30 years on behalf of the lower Russian River community.   During those years, RRWPC has appeared before the Regional Board innumerable times to provide testimony on a multitude of issues.  Of late, we have been most concerned about summer irrigation runoff, especially where recycled wastewater is applied.  We submitted extensive comments to the State Board during the 303(d) process asking that the Laguna be listed for Ludwigia and the lower river for nutrients.  In this instance, we express concerns about Santa Rosa’s proposed nutrient offset program.

Concerns about Resolution….We have numerous concerns about Santa Rosa’s proposed Nutrient Offset Policy, which contains proposed activities expected to mitigate the City’s wastewater nutrient content and thereby nutrient discharges to the Laguna:

  • The application documents extensive dairy waste violations which form the premise for the project, yet no enforcement had been imposed at Beretta’s dairy as it discharged pollutants into the Laguna for many years.  (Including uncontrolled release of manure leachate from solids handling and uncontrolled raw wastewater released from confined loafing areas located just feet from Roseland Creek)

Control of raw wastewater from confined animal areas is a basic requirement of state regulations and Regional Board permits and therefore is not eligible for nutrient offsets.  Any dairy that allows uncontrolled discharges of wastewater from these facilities should be subject to enforcement action by the Regional Board.

In other words, this proposed project for nutrient offsets purports to address problems that should already be controlled.

  • Approval of any offset triggers the need for adjustment and alteration of the City’s Wastewater NPDES. This process is subject to public review and comment (CEQA also?) and SHOULD NOT BE SUBJECT TO ANY AUTOMATIC APPROVAL!
  • City claims large nutrient reduction numbers utilizing measures that should be implemented anyway (offsets proposed for activities that should be prohibited or, at least, addressed by the dairy permit program).  Approval (which occurs automatically 60 days after the city makes its proposal if project is not denied) will allow the city to continue discharging nutrients and other pollutants for years to come.  It will also allow increased discharges despite 303d listing.
  • Additionally, any offset program should wait to look at TMDL findings thatmay point to the need for pollution control work in areas other than dairy runoff.

Need for greater public input and staff review….We request that the RWQCB stop the clock on this proposed project at the Beretta Dairy, in order to ensure adequate time for appropriate staff and public review and comment.   We request that staff deny the project, without prejudice, to prevent automatic approval and so as to allow time for review and modifications.  If the project were to receive automatic approval, staff may not have the ability to condition, deny or terminate that approval.   City attorneys wrote the resolution language assuming automatic approval of the project as written.  Any approvals given should be subjected to annual review with the requirement to be re-approved each year.