|Poor logging practices impair Santa Cruz creeks | Come
to the Water Board hearing September 12 in Salinas
If you’ve taken a hike lately along the San Lorenzo River or any Santa Cruz
creek, you’ve probably noticed the sediment lining the creek or river bottom.
Or last winter, perhaps you saw how our rivers and streams ran brown during heavier
storms. This sediment is not all natural. Much of it comes from bleeding roads.
Many of those are logging roads. In addition to sediment washing off the road
and skid trail surfaces, failed culverts, landslides and bank failures resulting
from timber harvest activities have played a contributing part to this excessive
sediment in our watercourses. In Santa Cruz County most streams have been listed
as impaired for sediment under the Clean Water Act.
| Severe over-cutting along
a perennial reach of Fritch Creek and adjacent hillside in Boulder Creek.
Such sediment is detrimental to fish. Steelhead and coho salmon in the Central
Coast Range south of San Francisco Bay are federally listed as “Threatened”
species, and the coho are listed by the state as “Endangered” and
near extinction. In this more southerly portion of their ranges they face natural
environmental extremes that make them more vulnerable to potentially damaging
impacts from logging. They face especially low summer baseflow, warm summer water
temperatures, and highly sedimented streambeds resulting from highly erodible
If additional fine sediment enters streams from eroding timber harvest sites during
the important spring feeding period for salmonids, turbidity is increased and
feeding is greatly reduced because the fish must visually locate drifting insects
to feed upon. The sediment also covers the cobbles where they lay their eggs,
making reproduction difficult.
Our drinking water is also at risk. When turbidity levels are too high, water
purveyors cannot take surface water from the rivers and streams. Filtration plants
are shut down until the water runs clear again.
For years, the timber industry has been exempted from waste discharge permits.
On January 1, 2003, the existing waiver from waste discharge permits expired.
Since then, the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board has been issuing
individual waivers for each timber harvest plan approved by the California Department
of Forestry and Fire Protection.
The Sierra Club believes strongly that the Regional Water Board should require
waste discharge permits rather than issuing waivers. On July 17, the Santa Cruz
Group, in conjunction with Citizens for Responsible Forest Management and the
Lompico Watershed Conservancy, submitted a proposal to the Water Board spelling
out the need for and content of waste discharge permits for logging operations.
Attend the hearing
The Water Board is holding a hearing on this proposal Friday, Sept. 12 in Salinas.
It is critical that we make a good showing at the hearing and support this well-thought-out,
scientifically-designed proposal to protect our water supplies, our watersheds
and our struggling fish populations. Please attend. To carpool or for more information
contact Jodi Frediani or call 426-1697.
An educational slide show is being planned for an evening in early September before
the hearing date. This issue will be discussed on EcoReview on Channel 27 Community
Access Television on August 19, 6:00 p.m.
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