NRC Report - May 2010
On May 18, a continuing meeting of the U.S. Forest Service was held on the subject of Water Quality Management Plan. This meeting featured a brief on the federal Clean Water Act and the state Porter-Cologne Act. Both pieces of legislation govern have 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. Drafts of BMPs will be available for comment prior to the next scheduled meeting (June 22).
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.