The California State Water Resources Board has released the revised proposed State Waiver for the USFS Water Quality Management Handbook. A December 6, 2011 meeting at CALEPA in Sacramento has been scheduled for consideration of adoption of: 1) a proposed statewide Waiver of Waste Discharge Requirements for Nonpoint Source Discharges Related to Certain Activities on National Forest System Lands in California, and 2) a supporting Mitigated Negative Declaration.
The revised draft documents in the proposed State Waiver package can be viewed at: http://www.swrcb.ca.gov/water_issues/programs/nps/wqmp_forests.shtml
Public comment on proposed changes to the State Waiver will be accepted until November 21, 2011.
After reviewing the changes to the proposed State Waiver, I believe all concerns submitted on behalf of CA4WDC have been adequately addressed. Specifically, the revision clearly articulates that NEPA review applies to all projects and activities initiated under the proposed State Waiver. In addition, clarification of State Categories A and B have been clarified with their relation to USFS “projects and activities”.
With the release of this revision of the proposed State Waiver, the SWRB has clearly noted that a CEQA Environmental Impact Report of the proposed State Waiver as supported by the environmental community and others is not warranted.
The "effect" of this action is that all National Forests in California will now have consistent guidelines dealing with water quality without having to submit each activity or project to the appropriate Regional Water Quality Control Board for approval.
The proposed State Waiver accepts the USFS Water Quality Management Handbook as the guide for the management activities such as road maintenance, grazing, mining, and all activities requiring a permit.
As long as projects comply with the guidance in the Handbook, they should proceed with no extra approval or review necessary. The Handbook, in existence since 2001, has been updated and defines actions to be used by Forest Service, contractors and permittees involved in activities or projects on National Forest lands within California.
Over a period of almost two years, stakeholders have held meetings discussing the Handbook content and the proposed State Waiver. All documents have been circulated for public review and comment. Extensive legal review has been conducted by State Water Board and USFS to ensure compliance with state and federal laws. I have been an active participant in all phases of the discussions and meetings on this topic as the statewide OHV representative selected by USFS staff.