NRC Report - June 2010
A continuing subject is the U.S. Forest Service Water Quality Management Plan involving the federal Clean Water Act and the state Porter-Cologne Act. Both pieces of legislation govern govern how the quality of water will be ensured within the State of California.
Basically, the Clean Water Act (CWA) applies to “waters of the United States” and prohibits illegal discharge from a “point source” that could affect water quality. The phrase “waters of the United States” includes surface water (not ground water) and traditionally navigable waters. The phrase “waters of the United States” does not include isolated wetlands or water bodies that lead nowhere.
As a contrast, the Porter-Cologne Act prohibits any discharge that could affect “waters of the state”. The phrase “waters of the state” include ground water and isolated wetlands from pint sources and non-point sources.
Point sources are direct sources such as discharge from a factory. Non-point sources are discharge from points where there is no defined source and are generally cumulative from multiple source. Typically, non-point sources are roads.
Within this framework, the Forest Service is engaged in an effort to obtain a “waiver of waste discharge requirements” in order to be in compliance with the Porter-Cologne Act where “waters of the state” could be impacted by runoff from Forest Service managed lands.
A separate but related action within the Water Quality Management Plan is a framework where the Forest Service will ensure the quality of water leaving Forest Service managed lands is as good or better quality than water entering Forest Service managed lands.
This framework will define the “uses” of water and a method to achieve those uses without impairing water quality. In short, this will be a plan that meets the statutory requirement to protect all uses of water. The “designated use” of water will adhere to an anti-degradation policy as a minimum standard which will include downstream uses of water.
The next step is reviewing the Best Management Practices (BMPs) which are the activities the Forest Service will be using to control their actions while ensuring good water quality.
The BMPs are of major importance as they govern activities such as road/trail maintenance, allowed activities on Forest lands, and how special events on Forest lands will be regulated. As part of this effort, the Forest is developing an inventory of high risk areas/issues and will be applying BMPs to solving related water quality issues. Roads and grazing are currently identified as high risk issues. Drafts of the BMPs were provided in June.
The WQMP and BPMs will be an important topic over the next few months as the plan begins to take shape. Of interest to recreation is how the plan will affect OHV routes. As previously noted, I am collecting GPS information about recreation routes to help determine the potential impact.
After close to four years, Devil’s Canyon is set to re-open on a limited basis. While final details are yet to be determined, the trail is expected to be open from one weekend a month from October to April. User limits will apply and will be controlled by a permit system. Details are expected to be final in August, 2010. Devil’s Canyon sits between two sections of Interstate 8 where it rises from the desert floor heading west to San Diego.
Finally, travel management (or travel analysis) is back in a new form. By now, everyone should be familiar with Travel Management in the form of Route Designation. The up and coming effort, Sub-Part A, is referred to as travel analysis, to determine the minimum system of routes necessary to manage forest lands.
I attended a briefing provided by Inyo NF on the topic that generated more questions than answers. The only known point is: Forest Service Region 5 is on target to issue a press release and post information on their web site about the travel analysis effort on August 2.
Between the water quality and travel analysis efforts, there will be some impact to recreation. The unknown impact underscores the need for recreation to develop a database of routes important to recreation.
I am seeking GPS information of all routes you use. Contact me for more information and to see how you can help.