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Old Baldy, Canada | photo by Cameron Schaus
Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | santa cruz county

Regional Water Board weakens timber harvest monitoring

August 2009

Despite the fact that most of the creeks in Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties are listed as impaired for sediment, the Central Coast Regional Water Board voted on July 10 to weaken its role in monitoring timber harvests, a major cause of stream sedimentation. A half dozen dedicated forest and watershed advocates, including several informed Sierra Club members, spoke passionately at the hearing in Watsonville about the absurdity of allowing the dischargers to enroll themselves under the timber waiver program, without staff review of their applications.

Staff is now planning on reviewing only 3-4 timber harvest plans per year instead of all the plans. In Santa Cruz County alone, there are currently 10 timber harvest plans in process. Nine of these are in watersheds listed under the Federal Clean Water Act as impaired for sediment and siltation. The tenth is in a watershed that exceeds acceptable sedimentation levels by 90%.

Water Board staff claimed insufficient funding and staff time to properly conduct the timber harvest monitoring program, justifying the reduced oversight on the largely unsubstantiated grounds that logging creates minimal risk.

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