Waste Discharge Requirements for timberlands owned by Humboldt Redwood Company, LLC in the Elk River Watershed

The Elk River, one of the primary tributaries of Humboldt Bay and an important salmon spawning and rearing habitat, has been utilized for rural residential, grazing, and timber harvesting since the 1850s. In 1997, the Regional Water Board and other state agencies began to receive reports from downstream residents of increased turbidity, channel filling, and flood frequency. In December 1997, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), California Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW, then California Department of Fish and Game), California Geological Survey (CGS) and the Regional Water Board determined, based on field observations and aerial photograph data, that the Elk River Watershed was one of five watersheds owned by PALCO that were significantly cumulatively impacted by sediment discharges following the large storm events in late 1996 and early 1997. Elk River was identified in 1998 as impaired due to excessive sedimentation/siltation and was subsequently placed on the federal Clean Water Act section 303(d) list.

In 2008, Humboldt Redwood Company, LLC (HRC) acquired all of PALCO's timberlands, including approximately 22,000 acres in the Elk River watershed. All Regional Water Board Orders that pertain to HRC's current activities were originally issued to PALCO and amended by Order No. R1-2008-0100 to reflect HRC's ownership of the former PALCO holdings. 

Nonpoint source discharges from HRC's timber harvesting and associated activities are currently regulated under Order No. R1-2006-0039, Elk River Watershed-specific Waste Discharge Requirements (WWDR) issued by the Regional Water Board in 2006 to the Pacific Lumber Company, the previous landowner. Among other requirements, the WWDR includes receiving water limitations on peak flow increases and sediment discharge from harvest-related landslides, and rate of harvest limitations based on two scientific models.

The existing WWDR is not tailored to the management practices of HRC, and does not comprehensively address HRC's obligations for cleanups and TMDL implementation. It needs to be updated to reflect current conditions and provide a more comprehensive and readable permit. In addition, the remaining requirements for erosion control from Cleanup and Abatement Orders for HRC's timberlands in the North and South Fork of Elk River will be incorporated in this Order for a more efficient management of related monitoring and reporting.

The WDR establishes enforceable general and specific requirements, including:

  • Limits on the harvesting intensity and areal extent of timber harvesting;
  • Methods to prevent sediment discharge from road use, construction, reconstruction, decommissioning, repair and maintenance;
  • Methods to prevent sediment discharge from landslides by implementation of hillslope prescriptions designed to minimize impacts to slope stability and review by a Professional Geologist of all proposed harvesting and road construction or reconstruction;
  • Inventory and treatment of controllable sediment discharge sources from roads, skid trails, landslides, and other sources related to timberland management;
  • Retention and protection of riparian vegetation to preserve and restore shade, prevent increases in solar radiation, and meet the temperature objective;
  • In-stream and riparian zone restoration;
  • A monitoring and reporting program that includes watershed trend monitoring, annual work plans describing HRC's planned activities for each upcoming year, and an annual summary report of activities conducted during the previous year.

This proposed Order is informed by the Elk River Sediment Technical Analysis for the UER (Tetra Tech, 2015), attached to the Order as Attachment B.

The Initial Study and Mitigated Negative Declaration analyze potential impacts from the Order. Attachment A of the Initial Study provides additional best management practices designed to mitigate potential impacts from stream restoration. Restoration and remediation efforts in the UER as well as the impacted reach combined with the additional layer of environmental protection provided by the Order are expected to ensure that adverse impacts to the water quality in the Elk River watershed improve over time.

Persons wishing to receive additional notices related to the draft Order and Mitigated Negative Declaration must subscribe to the respective email list, under Resources, Email Subscription on the left side of the Regional Water Board's main web page at http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/northcoast.

November 30, 2016 Board Meeting Adopted Documents

November 30, 2016 Board Meeting Supporting Documents

Proposed Order Attachments

Initial Study Attachments

Comment letters received during the August 30 – September 29, 2016 Public Comment period:

The following letters were received outside the designated comment period. Regional Water Board members have received the comments, and they will be made part of the record for this proceeding. No written response will be provided:

June 16, 2016 Board Meeting Supporting Documents

Revised Notice of Public Hearing
to Adopt a Mitigated Negative Declaration 
Proposed Order No. R1-2016-0004 Waste Discharge Requirements and General Water Quality Certification
Nonpoint Source Discharges and Other Controllable Water Quality Factors Related to
Timber Harvesting and Associated Activities Conducted by
Humboldt Redwood Company, LLC
in the Upper Elk River Watershed, Humboldt County

May 12, 2016 Board Meeting Supporting Documents

Public Comment Letters Received

Kristi Wrigley Joel Fonner Matthew Turner Jesse Noell
Jesse Noell Scott and Susan Keele Mike Miles Jesse Noell
Justin Ly Lisa O'Keefe Nancy Sievert Vivian Helliwell
Matt Goldworthy Chris Pasteris Ralph Kraus Joe Croteau
Jedediah Parr Jerry Martien Rob DiPerna Ken Pimlott
Jesse Noell Kristi Wrigley Wayne Whitlock Jack Lewis