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Water: Nonpoint Source Success Stories

Washington (Section 319I - 1994)

The Washington State Nonpoint Source Pollution Management Program identifies high priority watersheds, programs that need to be developed, and specific implementation actions to protect or control nonpoint sources of water pollution. Using section 319 funds, Washington State has been able to organize an exemplary cooperative watershed-based forest management program balancing industry needs with water quality concerns.

Consensus and Cooperation Protect Forest Resources

An innovative coalition in central Washington State has taken on a challenge to manage and protect resources on - forest lands while still maintaining a viable forest products industry. This coalition--the Yakima Resource Management Cooperative (YRMC)is a voluntary group of forest landowners, government agencies, environmental groups, and the Yakima Indian Nation that has proven to be a model in using consensus and cooperative planning to improve water quality.

In 1990, the YMRC Water Quality and Fisheries Technical Committee identified fine sediment from forest practices as the major threat to the area's water quality. Committee members began a sediment monitoring program to identify streams with the greatest sediment problems. The committee developed standards, based on amount of sediment, to determine which streams needed watching and which needed immediate attention.

The biggest single source of sediment came from logging roads, often due to high road densities, poor location and design, or lack of maintenance. After identifying the sources, the YMRC undertook activities to address the problems. Over four years, $240,000 of section 319 funds has paid for technical support staff to help correct the problems. Individual landowners paid for corrective actions. Activities included reconstructing and improving roads, abandoning over 50 miles of road, adopting forest - practices to reduce sediment, and using erosion control matting and slash filter windows. Other activities included installing more frequent relief drains, constructing bridges to replace culverts, replanting eroded sections of a creek, and relocating some roads. In addition, a major timber harvest was modified to leave a wider stream buffer, take a smaller percentage of trees, provide sediment traps, and incorporate special treatments for landings and skid trails. Agreements were also reached for more protective riparian buffers along upper Taneum Creek. Together, these activities have reduced sediment delivery into streams, as visual observation and monitoring have clearly shown.

Part of the section 319 funds have been used to provide ongoing training for area loggers. Since 1993, more than 110 foresters and loggers have attended workshops designed to familiarize them with new forest practices required under state law, especially those needed to protect and preserve water quality and wetlands. The YRMC's work has paid off. Major landowners who harvest timber in the watershed have agreed to implement practices that go beyond their requirements under the State Forest Practices Act. These landowners are not only voluntarily adopting these extra practices, but in many cases they are allowing these commitments to be written into the site-specific harvest plans required by the state.

Currently, the YRMC is implementing a new three-year plan. This includes watershed analysis to evaluate and identify other problems and implement appropriate solutions.

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