Sunday, December 1, 2002

December BMP Q&A

By: Hughes Simpson, BMP Forester, Texas Forest Service

Q:   This month’s BMP article is a continuation of last month’s question. That question asked me to explain the “problem areas” in greater detail that were noted in the BMP Implementation Report.

A:   The report “Voluntary Implementation of Forestry Best Management Practices in East Texas, Round 5” noted two major deficiencies in the evaluation of 150 forestry sites from August 16, 2000 to April 23, 2002. The first area of deficiency was improper stream crossings on temporary roads. The second area of deficiency was the high amount of significant risks to water quality that were noted. This month, let’s concentrate on the second deficiency.

What exactly is a significant risk to water quality? The Southern Group of State Foresters Water Resources Committee defines it as “a situation or set of conditions that have resulted in or very likely will result in the measurable and significant degradation of water quality, and that can be remedied or otherwise mitigated.” This group developed a framework to provide south-wide guidance for monitoring BMP implementation.

Steep topography and highly erodible soils are key site conditions that are often associated with significant risks. Conducting forestry operations under these conditions without the proper implementation of certain BMPs may have a high potential to result in significant risk to water quality.

Overall, twenty-eight significant risks to water quality were noted in the fifth round of BMP implementation monitoring. All of these risks fell under private ownership (24 on non industrial private forest landowners and 4 on industry). The major areas of concern were stream crossings, streamside management zones, and to a lesser extent, roads and skid trails. Examples of forestry activities where significant risks were identified include not stabilizing or restoring stream crossings, not leaving a SMZ along intermittent streams, not removing logging debris from the stream channel, and not installing appropriate drainage structures on road systems.

Documenting the occurrence of significant risk is a very important part of the BMP site evaluations. This type of risk assessment lends much credibility and integrity to the BMP monitoring program by recognizing that high risk conditions can occur, and that prevention and/or restoration is a high priority to state forestry agencies. It also may show that the lack of BMPs may not necessarily equate to a water quality problem. Finally, this tool not only protects the environment, but may also protect the landowner and operator from what otherwise may result in enforcement proceedings or other personal liability.

It is extremely important that we improve upon the deficiencies that were noted in this report. These problems can have a definite impact on water quality, and will attract the attention of regulators. Continue to do the best job that you can and everything will take care of itself. If you have a question regarding BMPs, please call me at (936) 639-8180.

* This article was published in the December 2002 issue of the Texas Logger

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