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Local agency helps keep Truckee River clean

Scott Hess
Courtesy photoTRAM volunteer Meri McEneny scrubs rocks in Gray Creek to collect aquatic insects. Program Manager Beth Christman is holding a net to capture the insects as they drift downstream.
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When local water regulators aren’t able to conduct their own studies, they usually turn to one agency: the Truckee River Watershed Council.”It really helps the regulatory agencies,” said Beth Christman, program manager for TRWC. “They can’t get out here and monitor all these streams.”The watershed council offers quality-monitoring to the public and the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board for free. According to Christman, a group of volunteers formed the Truckee River Aquatic Monitors in 1999. In 2002, TRAM accepted a grant that brought on a small, paid staff — the watershed council.Now, armed with a volunteer staff of 15-20 people per year, TRWC collects bio assessment data from all the streams in the middle Truckee River area — the water that flows from the outflow of Lake Tahoe to the state line. Although the team managed to collect data from 10 streams this year, Christman said they usually do approximately five.This means the group looks at insects in the water — “benthic macro invertebrates” is the technical name, Christman said — to monitor the water quality. Some members of TRWC also look at fish and algae, which she said are easy to study with the volunteer groups.Christman said bio assessment is a “direct biological indicator to assess water quality,” while most agencies will study water quality through physical and chemical assessment, such as testing flow rate or amount of oxygen in the water.After data and samples are collected in the summer, TRWC and TRAM study them in the winter, and identify each sample, down to the family level. This is the third-to-last specific level of identification, with genus and species the two more specific levels of identification.While the groups can’t make any changes to town or county policy, or initiate actions to correct problems, Christman said the information and education TRWC offers is enough.”TRAM doesn’t have any authority,” Christman said, “but we share our data with anybody who wants it.”One way the data will help the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, she said, is with its Truckee Total Maximum Daily Load, which is a restoration plan to maintain water quality standards.In addition, TRWC and TRAM are trying to make the data more available for everyone.”We’re in the process of getting it in a really user-friendly form,” Christman said.She said she hopes the TRWC Web site, http://www.truckeeriverwc.org, will have the stream monitoring data up for everyone to view. Hopefully, she mentioned, it will be up by next spring.”People might not understand it, but it will be there,” she added.Christman said TRAM has had approximately 60 people since 1999, and is run by a five-member steering committee.”We usually have 15-20 really active volunteers, but people come and go,” Christman said. “Other folks show up once or twice a year to help.”For more information on the Truckee River Watershed Council, visit http://www.truckeeriverwc.org.


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