State asks locals to watch the watershed | SierraSun.com

State asks locals to watch the watershed

Julie Brown/Sierra Sun

Placer County and the Town of Truckee are partnering to develop a comprehensive strategy to monitor the water quality of the Truckee River watershed and combat sediment that is clouding the river.But first, they are looking to the local community to see what monitoring efforts are already underway.Our job is to look at the big picture, said Bill Schell, contract manager with the Placer County stormwater quality division. And coordinate [the data] so it all makes sense, and its consistent and timely. [A comprehensive monitoring plan] gives us a better pulse of whats happening on the river, itself.Because of the levels of sediment in the river in addition to the importance of the Truckee River for drinking water, agriculture, restoring groundwater supplies and recreation the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognizes the Truckee as an impaired river.The monitoring plan, which was issued to Placer County and the Town of Truckee as a technical directive by the State of Californias Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, will ultimately pinpoint where sediment is entering the Truckee River watershed.That is the primary objective, Schell said. Find out where sediment is coming from.Eventually, Placer County and the Town of Truckee can apply their Stormwater Management Plans both of which are in the midst of the approval process to capture the runoff before it hurts the rivers waters.But before the stormwater plans are put into action, Placer County and the Town of Truckee were directed to round up the existing monitoring resources and organize it all.Were looking for people who have done [water quality monitoring] in the past, Schell said. And were looking for information on what theyre doing.The comprehensive monitoring plan will be submitted to the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Board this summer, Schell said. The plan will outline existing monitoring activities and their potential for coordination, identify preferred monitoring methods and protocols, locate monitoring sites, establish a schedule and provide an estimated 20-year budget projection.A survey inquiring about potential water quality testing and sampling was sent out three weeks ago to more than 50 local government agencies, business, environmental groups and nonprofits but Schell stressed that they want to spread the word and expose the survey to more of the public.The monitoring that has been done so far is fairly disjointed, said Assistant Engineer Jessica Thompson of the Town of Truckee.So far, only a handful of groups who monitor the Truckee River have responded, including the California Department of Fish and Game, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Tahoe Truckee Sanitation Agency and some private developers in Martis Valley, Schell said. The Tahoe Truckee Sanitation Agency has three monitoring sites dotted along the river where they test for Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Chloroform and Iron, among other compounds and constituents, said General Manager Marcia Beals. While the sanitation agency takes the data, as is required by their waste discharge requirements, their data does not give insight into sediment loads, Beals said. But a comprehensive monitoring plan is of interest to the sanitation agency.Were always interested in looking at additional water quality data on the Truckee, Beals said.The grassroots group, Friends of Squaw Creek, also monitors part of the Truckee River Watershed in the Squaw Creek Basin. While they dont take data specific to sediment loading either, theyre data is focused more on the declining health of Squaw Creek, said Pam Rocca, a founding member of the informal group.You cannot fix your sick creeks in Squaw Valley until you increase the water flow, Rocca said. With enough water flow, the creek will heal itself in time.Rocca said an influx in water flow would also help sediment levels.For water quality, you need quantity, she said.