Responding to a CSPA Public Records Act (PRA) request, the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board was forced to admit it had never conducted water quality monitoring in the Battle Creek watershed, wasn’t in possession of any data from Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI) alleged monitoring program and had never ordered SPI to provide information to establish whether timber cutting is causing or contributing to violations of water quality. Battle Creek drains SPI’s massive clear cutting operations on the western slopes of Mt. Lassen. The Battle Creek Alliance has long been concerned that runoff from SPI’s operations was threatening a $128 million salmon and steelhead restoration project downstream of the timber harvest area.
The Alliance turned to CSPA’s technical staff to analyze data collected by the group’s citizen monitors. The analysis revealed numerous exceedances of water quality standards, in contrast to SPI’s claims that there are no water quality problems in Battle Creek. However, SPI has adamantly refused to publically release the information they claim to have collected. Consequently, CSPA filed the PRA request to obtain the data on 30 August 2011.
The state agency charged with protecting water quality now acknowledges it doesn’t have any monitoring data for Battle Creek but claims it is negotiating with SPI to have a third-party review the company’s information. Of course, the Regional Board has authority under the California Water Code to simply order SPI to furnish the data or to conduct any monitoring necessary to demonstrate that it’s activities are not harming Battle Creek. But that course of action is apparently politically distasteful.