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Blue-Green Algae on Water Board Agenda
By Jamie Genter, Siskiyou Daily News
July 18, 2007

Public meeting in Yreka next week

YREKA - The North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, which monitors California's water, will come to Yreka on Wednesday, July 25, to hold a public workshop and discuss issues pertaining to Siskiyou County waterways.

According to their Web site, the mission of the Water Board is to "preserve, enhance and restore the quality of California water resources, and ensure their proper allocation and efficient use for the benefit of the present and future generations."

The July 25 agenda includes action on a petition concerning waste discharge requirements for the Montague Water Conservation District, among others.

The meeting will begin at 8:30 a.m. at the Yreka Community Center in main room at 810 N. Oregon St.

A bus tour will follow on Thursday, July 26. The tour will begin at the Tree House Motor Inn in Mount Shasta. The tour will visit sites in Lake Shastina, Scott Valley, Don Meamber Ranch and more.

Several local residents are encouraging fellow Siskiyou County residents to attend the meeting to discuss one proposed resolution in particular, authored by Klamath River Basin resident Felice Pace.

Pace is requesting the Water Board to order the Montague Irrigation District, operator of Dwinnell Reservoir, "to submit a report of waste discharge and/or to issue waste discharge requirements."

He asserts in the resolution that the problems of the BGA and pH levels are not addressed in the Shasta River TMDL plan currently in place.

TMDLs (Total Maximum Daily Load) are a planning and management tool established to identify, quantify and control the sources of pollution within a body of water so the quality objectives are met and the beneficial uses are protected.

"It is up to us to get bodies in the meeting and butts on the bus to show that we don't want this resolution forced on us," said Brian Favero.

Favero stands in opposition to Pace's resolution.

In February 2005, the Environmental Protection Agency listed blue-green algae as a microbial contaminant candidate on the second Contaminant Candidate List (CCL), but Favero said that no other state currently lists it on the TMDL.

"I don't see any reason to believe the Board should act on the resolution to include the pH factor and blue-green algae in the TMDL for Shasta River," he said. "There's no reason for Siskiyou County to be the guinea pig, list it on some nebulous water code and have it placed on the recovery program."

The petition asserts that the Montague Irrigation District is releasing the blue-green algae anabaena, which produces hepatoxins that are capable of having detrimental affects, into the Shasta and Klamath rivers.

"Both the Regional Board and the State Board have an obligation to protect and control water quality now and begin to address the obvious, serious Shasta and Klamath River pollution problems," Pace wrote in the resolution.

An Executive Officer's Summary Report posted on the Water Board's Web site suggests that the Board may move to decline Pace's request to require Montague to submit a report of water discharge and instead take the following actions:

* Work with Montague and other responsible parties in the Shasta TMDL implementation that will result in compliance with water quality standards, including pH and toxicity associated with BGA;

* Work with Montague to include BGS and pH studies and plans submitted under the Shasta TMDL Implementation Plan;

* Work with Montague, Siskiyou County Health Department and other interested parties to ensure all efforts are made to effectively inform the public of health concerns as they emerge, including posting; and

* Request responsible parties for the J.H. Baxter Superfund site to collect fish tissue samples from Lake Shastina for analysis of chlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans.

According to the California Department of Health Services, blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, are photosynthetic microscopic bacteria that occur naturally in surface waters.

When certain species of the algae are broken open, the blooms release toxins that can pose risks to humans, pets, livestock and wildlife.

Exposure to these toxins can cause rashes, skin irritation, allergic reactions, gastrointestinal upset and other effects, according to the state agency. At high levels, more adverse health effects such as liver toxicity, tumor growth, serious illness and death can occur.

A Siskiyou County Public Health press release in August 2006 acknowledged the presence of blue-green algae blooms in Siskiyou County waterways, but stated that "the presence of blue-green algae in a water body does not necessarily mean toxins are always present."

The TMDLs currently exceeded in the Klamath River are temperature, nutrients and dissolved oxygen. Shasta River TMDL concerns are temperature and dissolved oxygen.

The status of the implementation of Scott and Shasta TMDLs will be discussed at the meeting.

"I went to the April 26 meeting in Santa Rosa, and the people there from Siskiyou County made a big dent in the understanding of this issue for this area," Favero said. "If we had that big of an impact there, there's no telling how we can affect the issue with conscientious and integral people at this meeting."

Residents are encouraged to attend the meeting to give input on the situation and to see what final decision is made.

For more information about the Water Board or to download an agenda and copies of resolutions, visit the Water Board's site at www.waterboards.ca.gov.

To reserve a spot for the bus tour, e-mail Jean Lockett at JLockett@waterboards.ca.gov or call 707-576-2307 no later than today.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, and as defined under the provisions of "fair use", any copyrighted material herein is distributed without profit or payment for non-profit research and for educational use by our membership.