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Water Quality Partnership in Oregon

July 05 2007 |
by Surfrider Foundation

Original Article

Printed in Newport News-Times on July 3, 2007

Surfrider partners with local agencies to promote clean water

In early 2007, the Surfrider Foundation was approached by the Lincoln Soil and Water Conservation District about participating in a joint water quality monitoring program.

"It just made a lot of sense," commented Charlie Plybon, Surfrider Foundation Oregon Field Coordinator. "They were looking for folks who are invested in their community's watershed and could offer support in field sampling and lab work for a volunteer monitoring project."

It was a perfect match: Surfrider already had the lab and the project funding would support other supplies needed for testing additional water quality parameters. "The partners and expertise of the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) made this project move forward quite smoothly," Plybon noted. "We developed a framework for cooperation bringing Surfrider Foundation, Lincoln Soil and Water Conservation District, DEQ, and the Oregon Coast Aquarium into a formal partnership."


Using DEQ training and expertise, volunteers across the Mid-Coast Basin familiar with local watersheds "are able to test for different water quality parameters and engage as a community in this statewide process," Plybon continued. "Surfrider had been doing very similar testing on beaches in the area, so they fit well with the model for local partners."

Although water quality sampling occurs upstream and not on the beaches, it is still of great interest for Surfrider. "What happens in the river will eventually make its way downstream to the ocean. Making land-sea connections is extremely important in assessing our coastal water quality," said Plybon.

The Mid-Coast Basin is located on Oregon's central coast from Cascade Head, located north of Lincoln City, to Siltcoos and Tahkenitch Lakes south of Florence. The basin contains a combination of urban communities, privately owned agricultural lands, and public and industrial forest land and has approximately 2,765 stream miles in the Siletz-Yaquina, Alsea and Siuslaw sub-basins.

About 500 miles have been identified as violating water quality standards for fecal coliform or E. coli bacteria.

Historically, the Mid-Coast Basin estuary systems have been monitored extensively by the DEQ and the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) for benefit of commercial shellfish production, Plybon noted. The estuaries support a commercial shellfishery, as well as many recreational shellfish opportunities. Bacteria loads in the Mid-Coast Basin are potentially from multiple sources including wildlife, sewage treatment plant upsets, on-site septic systems, urban area runoff, and agricultural practices.

"Water quality improvement now requires a comprehensive watershed approach to solving pollution problems. This reflects the combined effects that all the activities in a watershed have on overall water quality," said Plybon. "To solve water quality problems in a stream, river, lake or estuary, we need to consider the cumulative impact from all upstream sources. Surfrider takes this same approach to water quality on the beaches."

DEQ's comprehensive watershed approach for protecting water quality includes developing Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) affecting both point and non-point sources. "DEQ is diligently working to have federally-approved TMDLs on all water bodies listed in 1998 for not meeting standards by the end of this decade," Plybon said. "This timeframe takes into account the urgency to save declining salmon runs, the desire of landowners to begin working on restoration efforts, and the desire of communities to safeguard their drinking water sources. The goal of this project is to acquire sufficient data to develop a TMDL for bacteria in the Mid-Coast Basin."

The Oregon DEQ will use this bacteria data, together with flow data, to develop load duration curves to establish TMDL Load Allocations and Wasteload Allocations on bacteria-listed streams and others streams where bacteria violations are found.

The Surfrider Foundation is a non-profit grassroots organization dedicated to the protection and preservation of the world's oceans, waves, and beaches. Founded in 1984 by a handful of visionary surfers, the Surfrider Foundation now maintains more than 50,000 members and 63 chapters across the United States and Puerto Rico, with international affiliates in Australia, Europe, Japan, and Brazil.

The Lincoln Soil & Water Conservation District works to improve and conserve natural resources on agricultural, forested, private, urban and rural lands in Lincoln County, Oregon by providing information, education, and outreach; technical assistance to private landowners to develop and implement conservation plans on their property; an interface between agencies and landowners; and collaborating with federal, state, and local government agencies and groups.

For more information and to become involved with the Mid-Coast Basin data collection, contact Plybon at 867-3982.
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