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EPA Finalizes Water Quality Plan For Mattole River

Release Date: 1/2/2003
Contact Information: Laura Gentile, U.S. EPA, (415) 947-4227

     Specifies conditions needed to protect threatened salmon and steelhead

     SAN FRANCISCO   The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized a comprehensive water quality improvement plan for the Mattole River this week in an effort to restore and protect salmon and steelhead habitat.  

     The plan, known as a total maximum daily load, or "TMDL," specifies reductions in stream temperature and sediment runoff necessary to protect for several species of salmon and steelhead, some of which are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.  The North Coast Region of the California Water Quality Control Board is now responsible for developing plans to implement the TMDL.

     Timber harvesting, runoff from dirt roads, and natural conditions have contributed to high stream temperatures and excess sediment, which have contributed to the decline of the river's native fish populations.  The current sediment loading in the river is estimated at more than twice the natural rate.  The TMDL recommends reducing the amount of human erosion to one part for every four parts nature contributes.  

     Excessive logging in the past has reduced the amount of shade that would normally keep the river cool. Since 1950, 91 percent of the watershed area has been clear cut at least once.  The TMDL requires actions that will increase the amount of shade to the river, such as allowing the natural vegetation to grow back.