NRC Report - March 2010
USFS Region 5 is developing a Water Quality Management Plan in conjunction with the California State Water Board which consists of 11 Regional Water Quality Boards.
The plan will be a “Waiver of Waste Discharge Requirements For Non-point Source Discharges Related to Certain Federal Land Management Activities On Forest Service Lands in the State of California”.
The USFS manages lands for multiple uses, which include grazing, forestry, recreation, vegetation manipulation, and restoration. Activities associated with these uses may generate sediment, affect shade canopy, or influence other water quality parameters of waters of the state. This Waiver of Waste Discharge Requirements For Non-point Source Discharges Related to Certain Federal Land Management Activities On Forest Service Lands in the State of California is the management tool to be used by the Forest Service to manage, monitor and mitigate potential water quality issues.
The “Waiver” addresses non-point source discharges of waste to waters of the state from activities associated with specific uses of USFS lands (also referred to as “non-point source activities”) and will be consistent with i) changes in the various water code legislation since the WQMP was first approved, ii) the Non-point Source Program Plan and iii) the Non-point Source Implementation and Enforcement Policy. In addition, the WQMP will be consistent with current USFS policy and directives, including the developing national best management practices.
The current effort will focus on: 1) Timber management, 2) Rangeland management, 3) Forest roads, 4) Off-highway vehicles, and 5) Fuels treatment/forest health projects.
The stakeholders group continues to meet and the content of the plan is beginning to take shape to define general conditions that apply to all activities, e.g.: manage and maintain riparian zones for function and shade; address legacy sediment delivery sites, incentive based (through watershed restoration planning and through projects in watersheds without a restoration plan; document how BMPs (Best Management Practices) get translated into on-the-ground prescriptions; put on-the-ground prescriptions into contracts and agreements; and inform contractors/permittees of the requirement to comply with the waiver conditions.
The WQMP is a Forest Service planning document that will be developed and implemented as a Directive within the Forest Service administrative document structure. As such, it is an internal management document that is NOT subject to public scrutiny and comment within the constructs of NEPA.
The FS is working WITH the State Water Board on a regularity process within constructs of State responsibility to implement the Clean Water Act (federal) and Porter-Cologne Act (state) to monitor and address water quality issues. This portion of the overall WQMP will be subject to public review and comment within constructs of California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
Porter-Cologne Act provides the overarching regulatory process that provides guidance for each Regional Water Board. The Regional Water Boards have the flexibility to develop more stringent regulations to address local issues.
The end result of this process is the Forest Service will have a directive (WQMP) that provides management direction to implement Best Management Processes to protect water quality within Forest Service managed lands.
As noted, there is CEQA component (regulatory process) to the WQMP. It is expected the regulatory process will be released for public review and comment in mid-summer 2010.
About that time, a rough draft of the WQMP will be available for stakeholder review and comment. Within the WQMP are two important sections that are very vague at this time: monitoring and BMPs.
Those are expected to be a part of the "adaptive management" approach that will used to implement the plan. I continue to meet with the primary stakeholders group and the Adaptive Management sub-group.
The Forest Service is also working on a revision to the National Planning Rule and has scheduled a number of roundtables to be held throughout the nation. Region 5 will be hosting a roundtable on April 6 in Sacramento and various other locations though out the region will be connected via teleconference.
The Draft Agenda Overview for April 6 Regional Roundtable includes:
--Introductory Presentations on National Roundtables and Planning Rule
--Discuss the Principles presented in the Notice of Intent (Small Groups)
--Discuss Insights and Key Themes Related to the Principles (Large Group)
--Identify Issues and Challenges that the National Planning Rule Writing Team Should Consider
This draft agenda was developed from an e-mail questionnaire and subsequent telephone calls. I have been in email and telephone discussions with the facilitation team as I was unable to participate in the scheduled March 19 teleconference due to conflicting schedule. I will be at the Apr 6 Roundtable in Sacramento.
On March 19, I was at the Society for California Archeology symposium in Riverside, CA. where I was a guest panelist with the subject of “Site Stewardship Programs: Where Have We Been and Where Will We Go?”.
Site stewardship programs in California and adjacent regions have developed from relatively simple volunteer programs to important, complex programs critical to site preservation. These programs span entire states and involve multiple agencies and now even include a program in Mexico. Many issues have surfaced as complexity and span have increased, including stable funding, fluctuating levels of agency support, disclosure of site information, extent of professional supervision, retention, and varying levels of success in meeting volunteer expectations. Various programs have addressed these issues and others and form models for standardization as such programs grow in the future.
The format called for several papers to be presented followed by a panel discussion with the specific topic of “What will characterize future site stewardship program?”.
It was interesting in that motorized recreation was highlighted in two of the papers presented. In 1981, Camp Rock Springs on Old Government Road was the first site adopted under the then new Historic Site Adoption program. That site was adopted by the California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs and an article about it was published in the March 3, 1982 Needles Desert Star.
The second mention dealt with the now defunct BLM Adopt a Cabin program in the Ridgecrest BLM Office. Motorized recreation was an active partner in that program. It was noted that one historic cabin has been accepted in the National Historic Register. That cabin, the caretakers cabin at the Salt Tram Transfer Station, is supported by the Gear Grinders out of Ridgecrest. (Note: the Salt Tram sits on a ridge dividing the Saline Valley and Owens Valley and is within the historic Cerro Gordo Mining District.)
The topic of Devil’s Canyon is still in contention. As noted in my December report after the December 2009 Desert Advisory Council meeting, Devil’s Canyon is an unresolved issue. Due to leadership changes within the El Centro Field Office and the BLM Desert District Office, the topic was dropped from the March 2010 DAC meeting.
However, as public comment is allowed on items not on the agenda, I was able to convince the Council to place it on the agenda for discussion. The outcome resulted in TWO agenda items for the next DAC meeting.
Item 1 requires the BLM El Centro Office to return with a solution to access to Devil’s Canyon that does not place an undo financial burden on small groups wishing to run the trail.
Item 2 is more complex in that it tasks the BLM to review their procedures to allow permitted access into other areas of the Desert District where access can be allowed within an administrative permit action.
The Draft Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area Recreation Area Management Plan (RAMP) is out for public comment. This is the second release of this document and a continuation of the Desert Lawsuits that have been on-going for almost 10 years. Early review of the document reveal a couple areas of concern. One issue is the lack of access to the Imperial Sand Dunes from one area where access to the dunes requires crossing a railroad rights-of-way. At issue is people camping in that area are required to have a Dunes Access Pass in their possession even though they do not have legal access to the Imperial Sand Dunes.
The next DAC meeting is June 18-19 in Ridgecrest. A discussion of the ISDRA issue is another agenda item for that meeting.
Tentative April Schedule:
Apr 6 - USFS Roundtable; Sacramento
Apr 13 - BLM ISDRA Public Meeting; San Diego
Apr 22 - USFS WQMP - Adaptive Mgt; Sacramento
Apr 28-29 - OHMVR Commission; TBD
Apr 29 - Giant Sequoia NM; Porterville