Welcome to the State Water Resources Control Board Welcome to the California Environmental Protection Agency
Governor's Website Visit the Water Board Members Page
Agendas
My Water Quality
Performance Report
TMDL - PAJARO RIVER WATERSHED - TMDLs for FECAL COLIFORM

Total Maximum Daily Load Program

PAJARO RIVER WATERSHED - TMDLs for FECAL COLIFORM

RESPONSES TO COMMENTS

The public was invited to comment on a proposed approval of an amendment to the Basin Plan that would establish TMDLs for fecal coliform in the Pajaro River Watershed, add a domestic animal waste discharge prohibition, and add a human fecal matter discharge prohibition.

Comment Summary and Responses

  1. Kay Mercer - Central Coast Agricultural Water Quality Coalition
  2. Robert Ketley - City of Watsonville
  3. Jeffrey Single - Department of Fish & Game
  4. Tom Spitters - General Public
  5. Darlene Din - General Public
  6. Aaron Lazanoff - San Luis Obispo County Cattlemen’s Association
  7. John Ricker - Santa Cruz County Water Resources Program

 

No. Author Comment Response
0.1 Multiple Many of the comments submitted in opposition to the State Board’s approval of this TMDL were previously submitted to the Regional Water Board and submitted verbatim to the State Board, without further explanation.

Many of the individual comments submitted to the State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) on this matter are identical to a comment submitted to the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (Central Coast Water Board) at the time the draft version of this TMDL was under consideration. As part of its consideration process, the Central Coast Water Board provided written responses to all of the significant comments it received. The Central Coast Water Board’s responses either indicated that changes would be made to the regulatory provisions or to the related documentation in response to the comment (in which case corresponding changes were made), or the Central Coast Water Board’s written responses indicated that that changes would not be made, and the response included the reason.

Where a commenter merely repeats a comment that was originally tendered to the Central Coast Water Board on a prior version of a TMDL, but fails to disclose what quarrel, if any, the commenter has with the response provided or the action taken by the Central Coast Water Board in response to the comment, the State Water Board is unable to address the comment. Specifically, in those cases where the Central Coast Water Board made changes in response to a comment, the commenter has failed to explain how the changes were allegedly inadequate. Likewise, where the Central Coast Water Board did not make changes, the commenter has failed to explain how the response or explanation that the Central Coast Water Board provided was allegedly inadequate, or even whether the commenter believes that the response was inadequate.

Where a commenter has merely repeated a comment submitted below, the State Water Board cannot divine what the commenter believes has been adequately satisfied and what has not, nor can it determine the reason for any remaining dissatisfaction. State Water Board staff will review the Central Coast Water Board’s responses to ensure that they are thorough and address the specific question presented.

1.1 Kay Mercer Cattlemen are environmental stewards. They grow grass which cattle harvest; and consequently, they are attuned to a complex and dynamic interchange between their productions goals and the environment.  Because of environmental awareness, in the mid-1900's, Cattlemen initiated a state wide water quality planning and educational process. They continue these efforts today and The Central Coast Agricultural Water Quality Coalition coordinates on the Central Coast.The Central Coast Agricultural Water Quality Coalition (The Coalition) has assisted Central Coast Cattlemen in addressing water quality issues. The Coalition's mission is to represent farmers and ranchers in the development and implementation of voluntary, cost-effective, producer-directed programs to protect water quality on the Central Coast through education, outreach, coordination, facilitation and innovation. State Water Board staff echoes the Central Coast Water Board staff’s acknowledgement of the work done, and measures taken by cattlemen and the Central Coast Agricultural Water Quality Coalition for research, educational courses, and implementation of rangeland management practices intended to improve water quality.  Both the State and Central Coast Water Boards strongly supports these activities and recommend that these efforts be continued.
1.2 Kay Mercer Since 2005, The Coalition has participated in Fecal Coliform and bacterial TMDL public processes throughout the Central Coast region.  We have attended multiple public process meetings and hearings and provided comments on the Southern Santa Barbara Beach, Santa Maria, Salinas, Pajaro, and Watsonville Slough TMDLs.  And we have communicated TMDL information to ranchers.  Because of our region-wide involvement, we have grave concerns about the inconsistency of the TMDL process across the region.  There is quite a bit of variation in how TMDLs are implemented from watershed to watershed and between types of regulated communities.  Furthermore, the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Board) TMDL process and policy appears to be a moving target that shifts from year to year depending on regulatory, budgetary and staffing pressures.

State Water Board staff encourages active participation in the TMDL process and appreciate the Coalition’s diffusion of information to the ranchers. 

Aspects of the TMDL implementation plan can vary from watershed to watershed due to the variations in the watersheds themselves.  These differences will inevitably lead to variations in the implementation of the TMDLs dependant on the specific conditions of a particular watershed.  The implementation plans are specifically tailored to fit that water body, watershed, or region.  Also, implementation plans are usually peer reviewed as is the case for this Basin Plan amendment. 

Although the Central Coast Water Board is subject to regulatory, budgetary, and staffing pressures these do not change the regulatory process that the TMDL must follow or the “Water Quality Control Policy for addressing Impaired Waters: Regulatory Structure and Options”  Resolution  2005-0050.

1.3 Kay Mercer In 2006, we hosted a "Cut the Crap" class for Cattlemen in Santa Barbara County. Regional Board staff was invited and presented information about the TMDL process at that meeting.  Also, since that time, The Coalition has been actively involved in the Co-management of Water Quality and Food Safety issue.In 2007, Regional Board Staff insisted that Coastal Cattlemen write a regional water quality protection plan, The Coalition and the Central Coast Cattlemen's Leadership Group wrote the Central Coast Non-Point Source Grazing Approach and Benefits of Grazing document.  This document was written by a dedicated group at considerable personal expense and time.  The Cattlemen utilized the EPA Non-Point Source Grazing Management Measures Guide as a template for the document.  Furthermore, they made an effort to comply with all elements of the 2004 SWRCB Non-Point Source Policy.  Their approach was to create a flexible, living document that could be used by the most traditional or the most progressive rancher.  The Central Coast Benefits of Grazing is attached as an Appendix to the document and is the first compendium of all the environmental, fire protection, weed control, economic, social, and cultural benefits associated with grazing on the Central Coast.  The Central Coast NPS Grazing Approach document was completed in August. 2008 and submitted to Regional Board Staff for comment in early September, 2008.  Regional Board staff never provided feedback to the Cattlemen. The Cattlemen took that to mean Regional Board condoned, if not endorsed, their work.  Subsequently, The Cattlemen moved forward with their proactive efforts.This document is currently under peer review. The Central Coast Cattlemen's Leadership Group would welcome the opportunity to discuss this document and its utility with State Water Resources Control Board staff and Board members prior to formal adoption of the Pajaro River Fecal Coliform TMDL.

As indicated in Response 1.1 State Water Board staff acknowledges the proactive work done and measures taken.  However, because Parjaro River, San Benito River, Llagas Creek, and Tequisquita Slough have been listed as impaired pursuant to Clean Water Act section 303(d) the Central Coast Water Board is required to adopt TMDLs for them. 

Similar to the Central Coast Non-Point Source Grazing Approach and Benefits of Grazing document the TMDLs approach is to create a flexible and living document that can address the results of future monitoring, implementation activities, and new information.  The Basin Plan amendment has also undergone peer review. 

These efforts are not opposed to the Basin Plan amendment but rather can work together as indicated by Central Coast Water Board staff.  These voluntary efforts and implementation measures currently underway may, in fact, result in achieving the goals of the TMDLs and may be sufficient to demonstrate regulatory compliance with the proposed Basin Plan amendment.Central Coast Board staff volunteered the following information regarding the Central Coast Non-Point Source Grazing Approach and Benefits of Grazing document:

Staff is unaware of any formal or informal request, by staff, for the Cattlemen to prepare the Report.  Staff did receive the Report and were asked to comment on it.  However, in order to effectively comment, staff required more information, particularly regarding the intent of the Report.  Staff sent an email to the Cattleman representative who forwarded the Report asking for clarification.  Staff received a response email from that representative indicating that they would no longer be working on the issue.  Staff was not at that time redirected to another contact person.  Several months later, staff received a phone call from a new contact person asking for comment on the Report.  Staff commented on the report with the new contact person over the telephone, and followed-up with an email as well.  Staff received a response email from the new contact person who thanked staff for their input; no further request was made, at that time or since, to make additional comment on the Report.  In March 2009, staff presented the Pajaro River Fecal Coliform TMDL to the Board for consideration.  The Pajaro TMDL project identified livestock as a source of fecal coliform loading, and a prohibition as the mechanism to address the source.  Cattlemen provided public comment for the Pajaro TMDL project, but did not mention the Report

1.4

Kay Mercer

In 2009, The Coalition hired a Coordinator, Dina Iden, to support the Cattlemen. We teamed with The University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) to improve rangeland water quality planning and education.  The goal was to streamline the Rangeland Water Quality Plan and update the Rangeland Water Quality Planning Short Courses to include new tools that have been developed in the past five years. 

New tools recently developed by proactive individual Cattlemen include, but are not limited to, a rangeland positive point self assessment system developed by ranchers in San Luis Obispo and Monterey Counties in conjunction with Cal Poly and UCCE staff. Additionally, The Central Coast Rangeland Coalition has developed performance measures that indicate rangeland health and the ability of grazing land to protect water quality and build water assimilative capacity. 

Updated plans and classes will address newly emerging issues such as climate change, carbon sequestration and methane gas production. The California Cattlemen's Association and the California Rangeland Conservation Coalition are taking the lead on these global and national issues which are, nevertheless, pertinent to and should be understood by Central Coast Cattlemen.

Finally, The Coalition is working with NRCS, Resource Conservation Districts and UCCE to explore grant funding to defray educational and staffing costs.

Please see Response to 1.1

1.5

Kay Mercer

The Coalition recognizes that this TMDL has been in development for some time and when it was first initiated, the use of fecal coliform as indicator bacteria was common.  However, advances in pathogenic speciation have rapidly developed in the past few years.  In light of the heightened concerns surrounding human pathogens, the use of fecal coliform as indicator bacteria is woefully inadequate. 

The Central Coast Water Board has already addressed this comment in its response to “Comment 4”and “Comment 14” 

State Water Board staff reviewed the Central Coast Water Board’s response to this comment and agrees with the response.

Please see Response to Comment 0.1.

1.6

Kay Mercer

It is critical to speciate to better determine which human pathogens of concern are associated with specific sources in the watershed. 

The Central Coast Water Board has already addressed this comment in its response to “Comment 10” 

State Water Board staff reviewed the Central Coast Water Board’s response to this comment and agrees with the response.

Please see Response to Comment 0.1.

1.7

Kay Mercer

Pathogens and sources should then be matched to appropriate management practices.  To proceed without utilizing the best available sourcing technologies is an empty exercise. The Coalition recommends that adoption of this TMDL be delayed until more detailed speciation can be done to better guide the TMDL implementation plan.

The Central Coast Water Board has already addressed this comment in its response to “Comment 5” 

State Water Board staff reviewed the Central Coast Water Board’s response to this comment and agrees with the response.

Please see Response to Comment 0.1.

1.8

Kay Mercer

The Coalition recognizes that load calculations and allocations are very complicated.  It requires experts scientifically trained in the discipline of concern.  Quite frankly, we were surprised that Staff chose not to provide more detail in how it arrived at this TMDL load calculation. Staff alluded to the dangers of recreating in contaminated waters as the rationale for choosing these load calculations.  However, this seems like flimsy logic considering the majority of this watershed to be in private ownership so that water recreation is either by permission or by trespass.  The Coalition requests that Staff be instructed to provide more detail on load allocations prior to state adoption of this TMDL.

The Central Coast Water Board has already addressed this comment in its response to “Comment 3” 

State Water Board staff reviewed the Central Coast Water Board’s response to this comment and agrees with the response.

Please see Response to Comment 0.1.

Current fecal coliform concentrations in the Parjaro River Watershed exceed the existing Basin Plan numeric water quality objectives protecting the Water Contact Recreation beneficial use.  Because the Parjaro River, San Benito River, Llagas Creek, and Tequisquita Slough do not meet water quality standards for fecal coliform they were listed on the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) 303(d) list.  Because the Parjaro River, San Benito River, Llagas Creek, and Tequisquita are listed as not meeting water quality standards, CWA section 303(d) requires that a TMDL be established.  A TMDL specifies load allocations for nonpoint sources and wasteload allocations for point sources that, when implemented, are expected to result in attainment of applicable water quality standards, in this case the water quality objectives for fecal coliform. 

The amendment establishes a numeric target equal to the Basin Plan water quality objectives for the protection of the water contact recreation beneficial use.  The numeric target used to develop the TMDLs is:

Fecal coliform concentration, based on a minimum of not less than five samples for any 30-day period, shall not exceed a log mean of 200 most probable number (MPN) per 100 milliliters (mL), nor shall more than 10 percent of samples collected during any 30-day period exceed 400 MPN per 100 mL.

The load and waste load allocations for all sources are set equal to the numeric target with the exception of those from human sources.

Per Central Coast Water Board response to “Comment 3”, “Staff proposes a concentration-based TMDL that is independent of flow and precipitation conditions.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognizes concentration-based TMDLs (USEPA “Protocol for Developing Pathogen TMDLs, 2001) in accordance with 40 CFR 130.2(i) which states: “TMDLs can be expressed in terms of mass per time, toxicity, or other appropriate measure.”

Expressing the TMDL as a concentration equal to the water quality objective ensures that the water quality objective will be met under all flow and loading conditions.  In the absence of adequate hydrologic flow data, establishment of a concentration-based, rather than a load-based TMDL has the advantage of eliminating the need to conduct a complex and potentially error prone analysis to link loads and expected fecal coliform densities (concentrations).  A flow-load duration analysis would inevitably involve a great deal of uncertainty, with no increased water quality benefit.  Further, historic or current flow data may not be representative of future conditions in a complex and highly managed hydrologic system such as the Pajaro watershed.  Flows within the watershed may fluctuate on a non-seasonal basis due to intensive water management practices.  A concentration-based approach for these TMDLs, simply allocates pollutant loads to sources based upon the indicator bacteria water quality standard. Unlike mass-based load allocations, the concentration based load allocations do not add up to equal the TMDLs, since the concentrations of individual pollution sources are not additive.  Rather, in order to achieve the concentration-based TMDL, it is simply necessary to assure that each source meets the concentration-based overall load allocation.

It is also important to note that State water quality objectives and beneficial uses broadly apply to all surface waters of the state, regardless of whether they are on private property or public property, and regardless of whether they have perennial flows or ephemeral flows (please see Basin Plan, Chapters 2 and 3).  Electronic versions of the Basin Plan are available at:

http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/centralcoast/
publications_forms/publications/basin_plan/

Additionally, streams and waterbodies are not closed systems.  Impaired water quality in a reach of a stream that is inaccessible, or where the property owner never comes into contact with the water, does not preclude that those waters of the state can and will flow into downgradient stream reaches where other property owners or citizens of the state may potentially come in contact with the water, either through wading, fishing, or any recreational activity involving some form of water contact.  Recall that the REC-1 beneficial use is broadly defined as any activity that involves contact with the water, and the reasonably possible ingestion of water, including, but not limited to, wading or fishing.”

1.9

Kay Mercer

Lumping rural residential owners/operators and commercial livestock as one source (i.e.domestic animals) regardless of size and type of operation is problematic. Rural residential and commercial livestock operations should be separated. They are completely different communities with different outreach requirements and entirely different management practices requirements. It will be logistically impossible to ascertain implementation effectiveness and compliance using Regional Board Staffs consolidated approach.

State Water Board staff disagrees that this will be problematic.  Owners/operators of lands containing domestic animals are all given the same concentration based allocation.  They are also all subject to the domestic animal discharge prohibition.  Within three years of TMDL approval by the Office of Administrative Law, the Executive Officer will notify owners and/or operators of lands used for/containing domestic animals of the requirement to comply with the Domestic Animal Waste Discharge Prohibition.

Because the comment refers to implementation effectiveness staff assumes the comment refers to option 2 rather than option 1 of submitting documentation of no discharge. 

State Water Board staff echoes Central Coast Water board staff’s acknowledgment that land owners and their collaborative partners in the Resource Conservation Districts and other public and private entities, are in the best position to identify sound on-site management practices that are effective at controlling indicator bacteria loading to water bodies from livestock and farm animals to meet the TMDL.  Thus it will be the responsibility of the owner or operator to submit a nonpoint source pollution control implementation program (Program) for approval by the Executive Officer that is consistent with the Policy for Implementation and Enforcement of the Nonpoint Source Pollution Control Program.  Such a Program must include a list of specific management practices that will be implemented to control discharges containing fecal material from domestic animals.  The Program must also describe how implementing the identified management practices are likely to progressively achieve the load allocations to domestic animals, with the ultimate goal achieving the load allocations no later than thirteen years after Office of Administrative Law approval of the TMDL.  The program must include monitoring and reporting to the Central Coast Water Board, demonstrating the progress towards achieving load allocations for discharges from domestic animals, and a self-assessment of this progress

Or the third option could be to comply with Waste Discharge Requirements, or an NPDES permit, or conditional waivers of waste discharge requirements that explicitly addresses compliance with the Total Maximum Daily Loads

Because of the flexibility of the prohibition it allows the owner/operator to tailor their plan for compliance according their particular situation whether it be a rural residential or a commercial livestock owner/operator.

However, if the combination of rural residential and commercial livestock owner/operator as one source does prove to be problematic this can be evaluated during the three year reviews.  Every three years, beginning three years after TMDLs are approved by the Office of Administrative Law, the Central Coast Water Board has committed to perform a review of implementation actions, monitoring results, and evaluations submitted by responsible parties of their progress towards achieving their allocations.  The Central Coast Water Board will use annual reports, nonpoint source pollution control implementation programs, evaluations submitted by responsible parties, and other available information to determine progress toward implementing required actions and achieving the allocations and the numeric target. 

Responsible parties will continue monitoring and reporting according to this plan for at least three years, at which time the Central Coast Water Board will determine the need for continuing or otherwise modifying the monitoring requirements. 

Three-year reviews will continue until the water quality objectives are achieved.

1.10

Kay Mercer

What plan does Regional Board Staff have for identifying who should be regulated?

All owners and/or operators of lands containing domestic animals outside the scope of municipally owned and operated separate storm sewer systems will be subject to the prohibition

1.11

Kay Mercer

How does Regional Board Staff propose communicating the TMDL requirements to this group?

Within three years of approval of these TMDLs by the Office of Administrative Law, the Executive Officer will notify owners and/or operators of lands used for/containing domestic animals of the requirement to comply with the Domestic Animal Waste Discharge Prohibition.  In his notification, the Executive Officer will also describe the owner’s/operator’s options for demonstrating compliance with the Domestic Animal Waste Discharge Prohibition; pursuant to California Water Code section 13267 and within six months of the notification by the Executive Officer, owners/operators of lands containing domestic animals will be required to submit one of the four options to the Executive Officer or the Water Board for approval.

1.12

Kay Mercer

How realistic is it to expect this community to monitor? As a group? As individuals?

State Water Board staff echoes the Central Coast Water Board’s response, “Staff made a concerted effort in the proposed TMDL to limit the burden of monitoring and reporting, and built flexibility into the plan to allow staff, and the responsible parties, to adapt monitoring and reporting requirements for optimal financial and informational value.  Staff has endeavored to identify as many options as possible for responsible parties to demonstrate compliance with the proposed Basin Plan amendment, while still achieving water quality results.”

1.13

Kay Mercer

How realistic is it to expect this community to create an implementation plan that tracks implementation effectiveness? As a group? As individuals?

For the domestic animal discharge prohibition a plan of compliance does not require the community to create an implementation plan that tracks implementation effectiveness rather it requires that a plan must include a list of specific management practices that will be implemented to control discharges containing fecal material from domestic animals.  And the plan must also describe how implementing the identified management practices are likely to progressively achieve the load allocations to domestic animals.

1.14

Kay Mercer

Can this Regional Board Staff, with current staffing and budgetary constraints, actually regulate and enforce the proposed implementation plan in the rural residential community?

Yes State Water Board staff believes that Central Coast Water Board and State Water Board staff work associated with or resulting from this Basin Plan amendment will be addressed with existing and future budgeted resources.

1.15

Kay Mercer

What compliance plan will be promulgated for this community?

No compliance plan will be promulgated for the domestic animal discharge prohibition.  Owners/operators of lands containing domestic animals will be required to submit the following for approval by the Executive Officer or the Water Board:

  • clear evidence that the owner/operator of lands containing domestic animals is and will continue to be in compliance with the prohibition; or
  • a plan for compliance with the Prohibition which must include a list of specific management practices that will be implemented to control discharges containing fecal material from domestic animals.  The plan must also describe how implementing the identified management practices is likely to progressively achieve the load allocations to domestic animals, or
  • a Report of Waste Discharge pursuant to California Water Code Section 13260 (as an application for waste discharge requirements; WDRs or National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, or
  • Clear evidence of current or scheduled compliance with the Human Fecal Material Discharge Prohibition (as described in number-1 and number-2 above, respectively) through the submittal of the required information by a sanitary collection system jurisdiction, acting as the voluntary agents of owners/operators of private laterals.

1.16

Kay Mercer

What is the likelihood that Regional Board Staff will enforce upon this regulated community? Will there be some sort of class distinction where larger landowners will be targeted; while smaller landowners are ignored, albeit they are subject to the same requirements?

State Water Board staff believes that enforcement of the prohibition by the Central Coast Water Board is very likely.  State Water Board staff foresees the Central Coast Water Board making no distinction between larger and smaller landowners but rather an emphasis on those areas where monitoring and reporting have shown problematic areas.

State Water Board staff confirmed with Central Coast Water Board staff that yes, they expect compliance in terms of the prohibition and implementation options.  However, they anticipate that enforcement mechanisms will only be needed where dischargers have chosen not to assess and/or reduce their potential to impact water quality from controllable sources.”

1.17

Kay Mercer

In regards to liability, what third party would be willing to accept the liability for ensuring implementation, monitoring, reporting and compliance for rural residential properties?

Involvement by a third party is not a requirement but rather an option to add flexibility for the dischargers. 

1.18

Kay Mercer

The Coalition recommends that Staff separate commercial cattle producers from rural residential properties and revisit the TMDL load calculations and allocations, implementation plan and monitoring requirements and economic analysis. Failure to separate these sources now will create future confusion about TMDL progress and will jeopardize the long-term success of the TMDL program.

State Water Board staff disagrees that the lack of separation between these sources will create future confusion or jeopardize the long term success of the TMDLs.  State Water Board staff has reviewed the TMDL load allocation, implementation plan, monitoring requirement, and economic analysis and find them acceptable.

Also please see response to comment 1.9

1.19

Kay Mercer

Section 12.1.2 Domestic Animal Waster Discharges Outside Scope of MS4s requires that owner/operators of lands containing domestic animals ... be required to submit [a] report for compliance which describes how implementing the identified management practices are likely to progressively achieve load allocation. The plan will include monitoring and reporting to the Central Coast Water Board.  In regards to required reports, Porter Cologne specifies that when reports may disclose trade secrets or secret processes [they] may not be made available for inspection by the public.  This brings up legal questions as to what are "trade secrets or secret processes" when one considers agricultural production.  Grass and cattle production are highly variable depending on the physical characteristics of the property under production, and consequently, many ranchers consider production practices to be what differentiates their final product from their competition (aka their neighbors).  For example, there are established precedents that production practices specified in standard animal production contracts or protected by confidentiality agreements will be treated as proprietary information.  This might apply to ranchers growing grass fed beef under contract. In another example, cropping information that might be used in marketing reports would be exempt. The Coalition recommends that the adoption of this TMDL be delayed until the legal question (regarding what report information will be publicly available) is addressed and stakeholders are informed.

Section 13267(b)(2) of Porter Cologne states, “When requested by the person furnishing a report, the portions of a report that might disclose trade secrets or secret processes may not be made available for inspection by the public but shall be made available to governmental agencies for use in making studies. However, these portions of a report shall be available for use by the state or any state agency in judicial review or enforcement proceedings involving the person furnishing the report.”  State Water Board staff recommends that if there is a concern regarding trade secrets or secret processes that the owners/operators contact the Central Coast Water Board staff regarding those specific portions of their report so that proper protections can be made regarding those specific sections.

1.20

Kay Mercer

Staff has grossly underestimated the costs of implementation, monitoring, reporting and compliance plan requirements. The Coalition appreciates the difficulty of calculating true economic costs.  Budgeting requires many assumptions. The Coalition also appreciates staff providing estimated costs; however, the 2005 numbers from Las Tablas Resource Conservation District or the 2008 data from South Dakota do not accurately reflect current management practice costs on the Central Coast.

The Central Coast Water Board has already addressed this comment in its response to “Comment 5”, “Comment 12”, “Comment 19”, and “Comment 21”

State Water Board staff reviewed the Central Coast Water Board’s response to this comment and agrees with the response.

Please see Response to Comment 0.1.

1.21

Kay Mercer

Most ranchers do not have the resources or expertise to comply with TMDL requirement as individuals.  Therefore, some group approach likely will be required. The Coalition is well acquainted with the costs to create and administer a watershed group as suggested in the Implementation Plan. Unfortunately, Regional Board Staff did not fully capture the startup and maintenance expenses associated with the group approach in their cost estimates, such as:

  • Organizational startup expenses which include: Forming a Board
  • Creating organizational documents  Filing with the State  Establishing an office
  •  Numerous meetings and conference calls
  •  The cost of negotiating a monitoring plan with Regional Board Staff.
  •  The cost of procuring and retaining consultants and other contractors to conduct the monitoring and reporting program.
  •  The cost of creating and obtaining funding to pay for monitoring and reporting costs.
  •  The cost of writing a SWAMP compatible QAPP to meet Regional Board specifications.
  •  The cost of setting up monitoring and reporting systems to meet Regional Board specifications.
  •  Actual monitoring and analytical costs.
  •  Troubleshooting glitches in monitoring processes and laboratory analysis.
  •  Cost of informing constituents of compliance requirements (outreach).
  •  Costs of demonstrating management practices (outreach).
  •  Costs associated with measuring implementation effectiveness (outreach).
  •  Costs associated with negotiating an e-reporting form with Regional Board Staff in order to meet SWAMP compatible reporting requirements.
  •  Costs associated with reporting monitoring results.
  •  Costs of renegotiating any and all of the above because of changes in Regional Board TMDL policy, process or adaptive management.
  •  The coast of staff and overhead (office space, IT equipment and maintenance, taxes, insurance, and professional services such as bookkeepers, accountants and attorneys).

Forming a watershed group is not a requirement but rather included as an option for responsible parties to add flexibility.  As Central Coast Water Board staff has explained that while it is possible to identify a discrete range or costs associated with implementing management practices, it is challenging and speculative to calculate total costs, or costs associated with future measures.  This is in part, due to the uncertainty surrounding the number of facilities, ranches, farms, and private sewer laterals that will require implementation.  Also, it is important to note that the Central Coast Water Board cannot mandate or designate the specific types of on-site actions necessary to reduce indicator bacteria loading, or to meet allocations by the various responsible parties.  Specific actions or management measure that are described or identified in the project report can only be suggestions or examples of actions that are known to be effective at reducing loading.  Staff acknowledges that land owners and their collaborative partners in the Resource Conservation Districts and other public and private entities, are in the best position to identify sound on-site management practices that will effectively mitigate or control pathogen loading to water bodies from livestock.  The Proposed Waste Discharge Prohibition sets a load allocation goal, and identifies reporting requirements for owners and operators of lands containing domestic animals to demonstrate and report how they will achieve compliance with the load allocations and whether implementation is effective as planned.

1.22

Kay Mercer

Regional Board TMDL Staff have been informed of the lack of technical resources resulting from the economic downturn and bond fund suspensions.  Simply put, there are not sufficient technical service providers to assist stakeholders with these TMDL requirements.  Has Regional Board Staff conducted any sort of technical capacity survey to determine if the implementation plan is even feasible?  A phased approach might better meet Regional Board's long-term goals.  The Coalition recommends that Staff revisit the Implementation Plan to determine if there are ways to phase in pathogen load reductions in order to rebuild existing technical capacity.

It is important to note that the timeframe for achieving the TMDLs is within 13 years and measuring TMDL achievement and compliance will, in part, be measured by observing progression or continuous improvements to water quality over the long term.  Therefore, when considering long-term water quality management and improvement, short turn economic down turns should not be used to deter initiating control measures to achieve environmental repair and protection over the long term.

Additionally, the implementation plan has undergone peer review with the reviewer finding that the approach to first target controllable sources of anthropogenic origin as feasible and supported by previous monitoring and source identification studies in the watershed. 

The Central Coast Water Board has committed to perform a review of implementation actions, monitoring results, and evaluations submitted by responsible parties of their progress towards achieving their allocations every three years.  The Central Coast Water Board will use annual reports, nonpoint source pollution control implementation programs, evaluations submitted by responsible parties, and other available information to determine progress toward implementing required actions and achieving the allocations and the numeric target. 

2.0

Robert Ketley

It is the City's understanding that this prohibition was basically developed to eliminate "allocations" for sewer leaks and overflows under TMDL programs.  The City supports this. However, we have concerns regarding how the prohibition is ultimately interpreted and enforced.  The City believes that the prohibition needs clarifying language from the SWRCB to ensure the original intent of the prohibition is maintained. Our concerns are based primarily on comments made by CCRWQCB staff in 2009.

  • The Human Fecal Material Discharge Prohibition was discussed during the CCRWQCB Corralitos Creek TMDL hearing ( March 2009). During the hearing, Executive Officer Roger Briggs asked Board staff if a sample with 10 MPN of human fecal coliforms would be considered non-compliant. Board staff stated that any level of human fecal coliforms over 0 MPN would be a violation of the prohibition.
  • During a 2009 meeting between Santa Cruz area municipal stormwater staff and CCRWQCB stormwater and TMDL staff, Executive Officer Roger Briggs stated that for TMDLs, MEP (Maximum Extent Practicable) is the minimum level of action required for compliance.

Based on the above, it seems likely that local government will have no alternative but to use advanced (and expensive) techniques such as QPCR, Ribotyping and Phylochip to show compliance/noncompliance with the prohibition.  Should the results of these tests show any level of human fecal material (including levels far below existing State health standards), the waterbody would be non-compliant.  Since MEP does not apply to TMDL programs, local governments could potentially be forced to spend significant funds attempting to find and eliminate the source of these coliforms. It is likely that human fecal coliforms will be found in the Pajaro and other many other waterbodies.  They could be generated and dispersed under a wide variety of scenarios, including water contact/ recreational activities such as swimming - a cornerstone of the 1972 Clean Water Act.  The potential ramifications of this prohibition go well beyond leaks and overflows associated with sanitary sewers and septic systems. 

In light of the above concerns, the City respectfully requests that the SWRCB provide guidance on how the prohibition is to be implemented and enforced.

State Water Board staff understands the author’s concern.  However, compliance with the prohibition will not be a requirement to demonstrate compliance with the City’s permit.  But rather compliance with the City’s permit will demonstrate compliance with the prohibition.  Therefore it will be necessary for the City to demonstrate compliance with the requirements of the TMDL in which it must continue to implement their Collection System Management Plans, as required by its Waste Discharge Requirements and National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits, as well as improve maintenance of its sewage collection systems, including identification, correction, and prevention of sewage leaks in portions of the collection systems that run through or adjacent to, impaired surface waters within the Pajaro River Watershed.  Demonstrating compliance with these elements will be sufficient evidence that the City is in compliance with the Human Fecal Material Discharge prohibition.

State Water Board staff disagrees that if the tests show any level of human fecal material, the waterbody would be “non-compliant”.  Tests showing human fecal pollution in the water body would provide evidence that there has been a violation of the prohibition.  This would necessitate further investigation by the Central Coast Water Board to determine the sources of the discharge and potential enforcement actions. 

State Water Board staff echoes the Central Coast Water Board staff’s response that we acknowledge that zero loading from human sources will be a difficult goal to achieve overall.  However, it is a good goal because human fecal material typically poses a greater health risk than most bacteria of other origins 

For publicly owned treatment works the Clean Water Act (section 301(b)(1)(B)) requires a minimum of secondary treatment.  Therefore it would not have been pertinent for the Central Coast Water Board to assign an allocation greater than zero for untreated sewage.  Spills and leaks of untreated sewage are also a health and safety concern and thus assigning an allocation greater than zero would also run afoul of California Health and Safety Code section 5411.

Therefore, Central Coast Water Board staff concluded that the wasteload allocation of zero was necessary to protect water contact recreation beneficial uses to the fullest extent.

3.1

Jeffrey Single

The California Department of Fish and Game (Department) has reviewed the above document and appreciates the opportunity to provide comments regarding the proposed approval of an amendment to the water quality control plan for the general Coast Region (Basin Plan) to (1) Establish Total Maximum Daily Loads for fecal coliform in the Pajaro River Watershed (Including Pajaro River, San Benito River, Llagas Creek, Tequisqulta Slough,San Juan Creek, . Carnadero/Uvas Creek, Bird Creek, Pescadero Creek, Tres Pinos Creek, Furlong (Jones) Creek, Santa Ana Creek, and Pacheco Creek); (2) Add a domestic animal waste discharge prohibition; and (3) Add a human fecal material discharge prohibition. 

Escherichia coli (E. CO/I) are a large and diverse group of bacteria.  Although most strains of E. coli are harmless, others are pathogenic to humans.  With the recent outbreaks of E. coli 0157;H7 in produce from California's Central coastal counties, outbreaks have also been associated with drinking contaminated water.  In surface waters, E. coli presence is attributed to fecal contamination as a result of run-off from agricultural lands and other urban and residential areas (I.e. septic systems).  Fecal contamination can come from untreated sewage or feces from animals such as wildlife, domestic pets, and farm livestock.

The Department supports the amendment as a step to protect against bacterial contamination.

State Water Board staff thanks the California Department of Fish and Game for taking time to review and submit comment.  We appreciate their support on this amendment.

4.1

Tom Spitters

Without really knowing all the issues at hand, many of which I am sure you are aware, and have taken into account in the latest Morgan Hill City initiative before the California (Central Coast) Regional Quality Control Board, I would like to present a few points the nature of the waste disposal initiative clearly overlooks: a. Discharge of even treated sewage into the Pajaro River would ruin that waterway, as well as the water flow out to the coast into the sea - unless there is really a pipeline with discharge a considerable distance from shore, there is or will be "backwash" into the river shore outlet at different times caused by tides; b. With the amount of sewage that would be pumped down to the Pajaro River discharge point and then into open water, not only will the river, but the surrounding agribusiness and other areas, including the Elkhorn Slough and some other points of local interest including possibly coastal residential development, could suffer adverse consequences from the effects of sewage and other foreign matter discharged and possibly just sitting in open water; c. The Pajaro Valley area might also suffer the same consequences as areas affected by items a. and b.; not only that, but there is a local golf course and local businesses and agriculture that would suffer due to the presence of sewage in open water in the area in proximity to the Pajaro River.

Comments do not pertain to this Basin Plan amendment but rather a different item before the Central Coast Water Board.  State Water Board staff contacted the author to alert him to the mistake.

4.2

Tom Spitters

I have never lived in the Pajaro River regional area, and have no real relationship to the California Central Coast, but I did read a flyer at Morgan Hill city hall recently indicating there was an initiative to discharge additional waste water down the Pajaro River, and have spent some time down here on vacation that gives me the above perspective. I do know unfortunately the sight of discharge of large amounts of sewage into open water, and it's noisome, bothersome to the eye, and bad for local living conditions all the way up the food chain. To people like me, even additional treated sewage discharged into the Pajaro River per the current initiative will be a very delicate act, and something that will need to be monitored constantly, maybe even by a local sewage plant. Just piping in waste water to what is seemingly a workable and slightly unattended and remote place does not really work (period.) I would welcome the chance to come in and speak with you about this, and I or attend the March meeting of the California Regional Water Quality Control Board scheduled for March in Watsonville to reiterate these comments. Please let me know what you would like to do with the above comments, and I will be in touch.

Please see Response to 4.1

5.1

Darlene Din

I have attached the written comments that were supplied to the Regional Water Quality Control Board. It is my belief that those comments were not address completely by the Central Coast Regional Board Staff. I request that the State Board review the comments I have submitted and address my concerns.

The Central Coast Water Board has already addressed these comments when the letter was originally submitted to the Central Coast Water Board in their responses to comment document.

State Water Board staff reviewed the Central Coast Water Board’s response to these comments and agrees with their responses.

Please see Response to Comment 0.1.

5.2

Darlene Din

I further request that you delay the adoption of this TMDL until all of the concerns by all the stakeholders are addressed.

With all of the responses to comments, both oral and written, from the Central Coast Water Board, Central Coast Water Board staff, and State Water Board staff all current concerns from stakeholders have been addressed.

5.3

Darlene Din

The Central Coast Regional Board Staff requested that the Coastal Cattlemen write a regional water quality protection plan that would answer the questions the Central Coast Regional Board Staff posed to the Coastal Cattlemen. The Central Coast NPS Grazing Approach document was completed in August, 2008 and submitted to Regional Board Staff for comment in early September, 2008. Regional Board staff never provided feedback to the Cattlemen.

See response to comment 1.3

5.4

Darlene Din

There are many concerns that I addressed in the letter submitted to the regional board staff, two issues stand out in this prohibition as an example of the many flaws in the adoption of the PAJARO RIVER WATERSHED TMDL.

Two prohibitions are established as part of this amendment, the domestic animal waste discharge prohibition and the human fecal material discharge prohibition.

My comment - first point under discuss is the definition of domestic animal is too broad and the management practices of a commercial grazing operation and that of a rural residential are so different that the assumptions under the prohibitions are incorrect and must be addressed.

Domestic animals include cattle within grazing lands and farm animals such as horses, cattle, chickens, goats, dogs, and cats within rural residential areas of the watershed.

See response to comment 1.9

5.5

Darlene Din

My comment - second point is the natural baseline exceeds standards of the non-point source of these TMDL's so the standards are not attainable ever.  This is a lose/lose for the rural and urban land uses under these TMDL.

The Central Coast Water Board has already addressed this comment in its response to “Comment 1”, and “Comment 17“

State Water Board staff reviewed the Central Coast Water Board’s response to this comment and agrees with the response.

Please see Response to Comment 0.1.

5.6

Darlene Din

The purpose of the Clean Water Act is to improve water quality not to regulate appropriate land uses out of existence on the Central Coast.

State Water Board disagrees with the implication that this amendment will regulate land uses out of existence.

6.1

Aaron Lazanoff

San Luis Obispo County Cattlemen's Association is writing this letter in concern that actions of the Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) in the Central Coast Region are prohibiting ranching and agriculture activities. These TMDLs could have severe economic impacts on ranchers and farmers from our region. Agriculture is our number one industry in the Central Coast Region.
Farming and ranching also provide the open space for wildlife, including endangered species. Open space has secondary benefits of tourism which is also an important economic industry.
Here on the Central Coast we value our rural lifestyle.

This Basin Plan amendment does not prohibit ranching or agricultural activities.

The Central Coast Water Board has already addressed this comment in its response to “Comment 7“

State Water Board staff reviewed the Central Coast Water Board’s response to this comment and agrees with the response.

Please see Response to Comment 0.1. 

6.2

Aaron Lazanoff

Our ranching community has been proactively working at being environmental stewards of the land. We have been working with agencies such as the DC Cooperative Extension, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and other government agencies on implementing the State Water Resources Control Board's water quality plan for ranchers. In 1997 the ranch water quality short courses were initiated and began developing ranch water quality plans for over 900,000 acres in our region. We are constantly trying to improve in our ranching practices through additional educational efforts. The short courses will continue, and we have also put together Central Coast Cattlemen's Grazing Lands Non-Point Source Approach. This plan is currently under peer review and has been submitted to our RWQCB. In addition a group of ranchers have come together working with DCCE, NRCS, Cattlemen's RCD, with a grant from the Wildlife Conservation Board to develop a rancher sustainability self assessment training program.

We feel that we are taking the right steps to improve and protect water quality from rangelands.  There are already enough laws and regulations in place for those who are creating accelerated pollution problems. Any extra regulations will be a burden to us and put many of us out of business.

The Central Coast Water Board has already addressed this comment in its response to “Comment 9“

State Water Board staff reviewed the Central Coast Water Board’s response to this comment and agrees with the response.

Please see Response to Comment 0.1 and 1.3. 

7.1

John Ricker

We understand that the prohibition's purpose is to address human fecal contamination from homeless persons and other sources that are not already subject to regulation through NPDES permits or onsite wastewater management programs. We have also heard that the purpose is eliminate allocations from sewer leaks and overflows under TMDL programs, although that doesn't necessarily make sense, given the exception language.  We fully support the goal of eliminating human fecal contamination to the maximum extent practicable, however, it is unclear what additional benefit the prohibition brings to those protections already existing in WDRs and NPDES permits for those systems. Further, the prohibition needs to be modified to reflect subsequent Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board Resolutions that state that compliance with such a prohibition can be obtained through implementation of onsite wastewater management efforts (such as those approved through Resolution 95-04). Additionally,  even if  we are fully successful in eliminating sewage leaks and spills, there will likely be other sources of human fecal contamination that exceed a de facto zero MPN standard and the waterbody would be non-compliant, potentially exposing local government to significant legal and practical ramifications.

All discharges of waste to waters of the state must be regulated by waste discharge requirements, a waiver of waste discharge requirements or a prohibition.  The conditional prohibitions serve as effective tools for the Central Coast Water Board to regulate certain discharges within the watershed.  Conditions of the prohibition are designed to allow for flexibility in demonstrating compliance with the proposed Basin Plan amendment, while still achieving water quality results.  State Water Board staff defers to the judgment of the Central Coast Water Board whether onsite management measures should have been included as a possible method of demonstrating compliance.

If local governments are meeting the conditions of their waste discharge requirements or National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits, then they have demonstrated compliance with the prohibitions. 

Also see response to comment 2.0

7.2

John Ricker

In light of our above concerns we respectfully request the State Water Resources Control Board to:

  • provide justification for a de facto 0 MPN standard given adopted environmental and human health standards that, for example, consider a fecal coliform concentration of 200 MPN/100ml to be compliant and safe for swimming.
  • . identify responsibilities, particularly for monitoring or assessing human contribution, under this prohibition
  •  clarify the purpose of the prohibition, and what actions will be required should the waterbody be non-compliant
  •  indicate explicitly that compliance with the human fecal discharge prohibition can be obtained through implementation of onsite wastewater management efforts such as those adopted in Resolution 95-04. We previously suggested that the exception language in the prohibition be modified to read as follows: "... Exceptions to this prohibition include discharges in accordance with Waste Discharge Requirements, discharges in accordance with an Executive Officer approved Onsite Wastewater Management Plan (pursuant to Section 13282), or other provisions of the California Water Code, Division 7, as amended:"

State Water Board staff echoes the Central Coast Water Board staff’s response that we acknowledge that zero loading from human sources will be a difficult goal to achieve.  However, it is a good goal because human fecal material typically poses a greater health risk than most bacteria of other origins.  Therefore, Central Coast Water Board staff concluded that the wasteload allocation of zero was necessary to protect water contact recreation beneficial uses to the fullest extent. 

There are no responsibilities for monitoring under the prohibition itself.  However, there is monitoring required by the implementation plan of the TMDLs, which implement the prohibitions.  To comply with the Human Fecal Material Discharge Prohibition, the Hollister Domestic Wastewater Treatment Facility (WDR Order 87-47), Sunnyslope County Water District, Ridgemark Estates Subdivision, Wastewater Treatment Plant (WDR Order R3-2004-0065), Tres Pinos County Water District (WDR Order 99-101), San Juan Bautista Wastewater Treatment Facility (WDR Order R3-2003-0087, NPDES CA0047902), South County Regional Wastewater Authority (SCRWA), Cities of Gilroy and Morgan Hill, (WDR Order R3-2004-0099, NPDES CA0049964), City of Watsonville Wastewater Treatment Facility (WDR Order R3-2003-0040, NPDES CA0048216), and Pajaro County Sanitation District (WDR Order R3-2003-0041) (herein referred to as sanitary collection system jurisdictions) must continue to implement their Collection System Management Plans, as required by their Waste Discharge Requirements and National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits.  In addition, the sanitary collection system jurisdictions are required to improve maintenance of their sewage collection systems, including identification, correction, and prevention of sewage leaks in portions of the collection systems that run through or adjacent to, impaired surface waters within the Pajaro River Watershed.  Monitoring will be a requirement of the permits.

For private sewer lateral discharges a monitoring and reporting program will be required along with the compliance schedule, and milestone dates demonstrating progress towards compliance with the Human Fecal Material Discharge Prohibition, or monitoring as required per waste discharge requirements or a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit

The purpose of the prohibitions is to help address the impairment of the water quality in particular areas where these particular types of discharge are known to be a problem.  Because a waterbody cannot be non-compliant with a prohibition, State Water Board staff assumes that the comment refers to discharges in violation of the prohibition and in those cases where it is determined a violation has occurred, State Water Board staff surmises that the Central Coast Water Board will use its enforcement discretion once the source has been identified.

Also see response to comment 2.0 and 7.1

Questions about this topic?

Please contact: