Testimony Re: Eastern Oregon, Blue Mountain and Siskiyou Geographic Region Streamside Protections Review

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Mary Scurlock, Oregon Stream Protection Coalition
Re: Eastern Oregon, Blue Mountain and Siskiyou Geographic Region Streamside
Protections Review (Agenda Item 7)
July 25, 2017

This agenda item reports on work in progress, and staff is not requesting a specific Board
decision. The focus today is on whether the information staff currently intends to generate
for the Board will be adequate for the Board to make a decision about how it will focus
monitoring resources to address the adequacy of stream protections.

On behalf of Oregon Stream Protection Coalition’s 25 national, regional and local
organizations, I would like to take this opportunity to comment on project focus, the
decision timeline, and landowner advisory committee input.

A word on process. Because the staff work is extremely preliminary, it seems to us that the
Board should request at least one more report from staff before the Board actually selects
its path forward, at which interim point the Board could consider the adequacy of a more
developed conceptual decision framework.

Project Focus and Timeline

We fully appreciate that there are other riparian functions than those related to shade and
stream temperature that are relevant to Forest Practices Act objectives and Board duties.
But given that the Charter Work Plan states a broad objective for this project: to develop “a
list of monitoring questions related to the effectiveness of FPA riparian protection
standards in Eastern Oregon and the Siskiyou geographic region,” we’d urge the Board do
what it can to focus monitoring resources on specific questions as quickly as resources

It is clear that this Board’s decisions to exclude these regions from the westside Protecting
Coldwater Criterion/SSBT rulemaking precipitated initiation of this geographically–
focused monitoring project. Therefore, it would be logical for the Board to prioritize
adequacy of the stream protection rules to protect stream temperature in these regions. As
we did when the PCW/SSBT rulemaking was initiated, we urge attention to the specific
parameters of state water quality standards for temperature as expressed by the PCW,
ambient standards and TMDL load allocations for nonpoint sources.

Whether or not other questions also are addressed, initial priority should be placed on
addressing: 1) whether best available information supports a finding/presumption that
the current stream protection rules are adequate to maintain and restore stream
temperatures as required by water quality standards in eastern Oregon and the Siskiyou.
This would address whether there is a strong basis NOT to extend the scope of inference
from Ripstream to these regions; 2) whether there is additional information the
Department gather or generate with existing resources and within some reasonable
timeframe to inform the question of what rules would be adequate? We concur with staff’s
idea of presenting options for the Board that address study rigor; we would add that this
consideration should be explicitly linked to an assessment of the level of scientific
uncertainty around an issue.

Regarding timeline, we urge the Board to set clear expectations on a timeline for staff to
generate the information it will need to make a decision about the critical questions it
wants answered and how. We have concerns about any timeline any longer than four to six
months for selecting questions for the monitoring unit to focus on.

Advisory Committee Input

We won’t respond in detail here to the input from the three landowner advisory
committees. In general, we have concerns about why the opinions of these landowner
representatives are being shared on behalf of the committees when no other stakeholder
input is being shared with the Board or the public. The appearance is that input from
landowner stakeholders is given more weight and Board airtime than that from other
stakeholders, despite the fact that staff has characterized the purpose of stakeholder input
in this context to elicit the full range of stakeholder views. Further, the development of
committee opinions and positions about how and whether to conduct scientific research
seems outside the scope of these committees, i.e. the operational implications of actual
policy change proposals.

We will also make a couple of initial responses to the committees’ input.

• The landowner perspective seems to be that each region should be assumed to have
“unique riparian functions” that can only be understood by launching new region-­
by-­region research projects to determine whether a problem with current rules
exists. In our view, recommending this approach makes unsupported assumptions
that valid inferences adequate to the purposes of this monitoring program cannot be
made from existing research. We look forward to seeing the monitoring team’s own
analysis in this regard.

• The landowners also call for biological monitoring, such as “fish abundance and
size.” Respectfully, we disagree that these are likely to be informative metrics for a
host of reasons. While this kind of research is important and has a place, at the
present time it is not in the ODF’s underfunded monitoring program. We urge the Board
to focus on monitoring for parameters that relate directly to attainment of the objectives
of the Forest Practices Act – the water quality standards designed by DEQ to
protect fish and other beneficial uses. It is DEQ’s job to determine what parameters
are necessary to protect beneficial uses, and it is ODF’s job to meet those parameters.1

• The Committee for Family Forestlands provided opinions about the “general
approach to collecting appropriate data to inform” the streamside protections
review. We believe that that adding a fish population study would be costly, time
consuming, highly unlikely to be scientifically informative as proposed, and
irrelevant to the already extant policy and legal context, which has already been
considered at length and integrates known effects on fish.

• Regarding the EOAC’s endorsement of the 2003 “ERFAC” report, the Board should
recognize that this report reflected only landowner views: the sole conservation-­
oriented member of that committee actually wrote a letter attached to the report
that expressed the view that conservation interests were not adequately
represented. With respect to the EOAC’s opinion on the extreme complexity of
Eastern Oregon ecosystems, we must respectfully disagree. Eastern Oregon streams
are no more complex than any other streams. In terms of temperature and shade
relations specifically, they are the same.

• The EOAC does make some astute observations on Idaho rules and how they lay
down on the ground, and we urge ODF to explore this further, in addition to both CA
and WA rules. In Idaho, it is our understanding that the common outcome of no-­cut
50-­foot buffers being required to achieve shade and stocking objectives simply
reflects the biophysical reality of the riparian forest situation in the interior west.

• We are further concerned about the EOAC’s implication that that fish use streams
that are dry or have intermittent dry reaches in the summer should not be equally
considered as other fish streams purposes of riparian protection. This implication
bears further scrutiny for its ecological basis. In Oregon, a stream or lake has fish use
if it is occupied—at any time of year—by fish that are anadromous, game species, or
listed as threatened or endangered under the state or federal endangered species acts,
unless fish are present due only to introduction. There is currently no regulatory or
other reason of which we are aware to treat periodically dry reaches of perennial
fish use streams differently than other fish use reaches.

The protection goal for water quality, per ORS 527.765 is to ensure through the described forest practices that, to the maximum extent practicable, non-­point source discharges of pollutants resulting from forest operations do not impair the achievement and maintenance of the water quality standards.