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U.S. EPA finalizes water quality plan for Northern California river

Release Date: 1/5/2005
Contact Information: Laura Gentile ( - 415/947-4227 (desk) or 415/760-9161 (cell)

Plan specifies conditions needed to restore Upper Eel River, protect fish

SAN FRANCISCO -- Last week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized water quality plans for the Upper Eel River and several tributaries in Lake and Mendocino counties, Calif. in an effort to restore and protect native fish. The plans, known as a total maximum daily loads, or "TMDLs," recommend reducing sediment and protecting trees that provide shade necessary to protect several species of steelhead and salmon, some of which are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

"We need to continue current efforts to reduce sediment runoff to the Eel River and restore natural stream temperatures to protect vital fish habitat in the area," said Alexis Strauss, director of the water division for the U.S. EPA's Pacific Southwest Region. "These plans will help target the most important pollution sources and accelerate the restoration of this important watershed."

The EPA evaluated the effects of a local dam, native trees and numerous dirt roads to determine how to restore the river. Timber harvesting, runoff from dirt roads and the removal of native plants have contributed to the excess sediment and increasing stream temperatures, which have led to the decline of the river's native fish population.

The TMDL recommends reducing the amount of human erosion to one part for every four parts nature contributes. The TMDL also requires steps that will increase the amount of shade to the river, such as allowing the natural plants to grow back.

The North Coast region of the California Water Quality Control Board is now responsible for developing plans to implement the TMDL, which meet legal requirements of the federal Clean Water Act.