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Scott River Pollution Clean-up Plan Questioned
Petey Brucker, KFA Press Release
Klamath Riverkeeper Program
December 11, 2005

ORLEANS - Coastal Salmon Fishermen, Native American Tribes and River Conservationists were among those who traveled to Yreka, California, near the Oregon border, on Wednesday December 7th for a meeting of the North Coast Water Quality Control Board. These and other concerned citizens testified in opposition to the plan prepared by state employees to clean up sediment and temperature pollution in a major tributary of the Klamath River. This year record low numbers of salmon returned to the Scott River which once teemed with salmon. Fishermen, tribes and river conservationists believe that poorly regulated agricultural and timber industry pollution is responsible for the poor state of Scott River water quality and fisheries.

The clean up plan for the Scott consists of a document called a TMDL as well as an Action Plan. A TMDL is required whenever a river or stream is found to be polluted in violation of water quality standards designed to protect beneficial uses of water, including drinking water, fisheries and recreation. In spite of the opposition, North Coast Water Board members appointed by the governor approved the Clean-Up Plan. Petey Brucker, representing the Klamath Riverkeeper program, summed up reaction to the decision: The North Coast Board approved a Plan which will not clean up Scott River pollution. If it stands, the Scott River TMDL and Action Plan will result in continued fish kills in the Scott and Klamath Rivers.

The Plan approved by the Northcoast Water Board relies on voluntary actions by timber, agriculture and Siskiyou County. Those opposed to the Plan say the voluntary approach has been tried for 30 years while water quality and fisheries have declined. They say it is time for real regulation. Those opposed to the plan echoed Mr. Brucker's statement that the time has come for real regulation of agricultural and timber pollution, not continuation of failed policies which have allowed these industries to use the Scott River as a sacrifice zone.

Klamath Riverkeeper's Brucker also noted that the Scott TMDL sets a bad precedent for Clean-Up Plans which will be developed during 2006 for the Mainstem Klamath and Shasta Rivers. We are deeply disappointed that the Board chose to approve a flawed plan which will not result in cleaning up temperature and sediment pollution,said Brucker, adding that If this TMDL stands it will lead to more conflict and litigation and could result in extirpation of salmon from most of the Scott River Watershed.

Those opposing the TMDL and Clean-Up Plan will now take their message to the State Water Resources Control Board which must approve the Plan before it goes to the US EPA for final consideration. The State Board will take up the Scott River TMDL and Action Plan as early as January.

The Klamath River was once the third largest salmon producing river basin on the West Coast. But now Klamath River salmon are considered the weakest of West Coast salmon runs. This has resulted in massive reductions in commercial, sport and tribal salmon fisheries between Cape Mendocino in California and Cape Blanco in Oregon. Salmon landings and the economies of coastal communities in Northern California and Southern Oregon have suffered as a result. Government economists estimate the value of restored Klamath River salmon fisheries at as much as $8 billion annually.

Klamath Riverkeeper, a program of the Klamath Forest Alliance, is affiliated with the California Coastkeeper Alliance and the National Riverkeeper Alliance headed by Robert Kennedy Jr. The mission of Klamath Riverkeeper is to restore water quality and the beneficial uses of water throughout the Klamath River Basin of Northern California and Southern Oregon.

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