It is essential, when trading credits for pollution, that baseline pollution reduction measurements be established, measured and enforced and that the public has accessibility into these processes.

In the absence of these safeguards as we move forward with a market-based plan to control pollution, we risk undermining established environmental regulations by allowing businesses to buy and sell the right to pollute. If there is no “cap” placed on pollution, in the form of TMDLs (#4), then the program becomes ripe for abuse.

There is no such thing as “going away” when it comes to pollution and we must proceed with care when shifting impact around.

What you can do!

Comment period is only open to Friday, June 21st, so please send in your comments TODAY to help get our Laguna de Santa Rosa on a sure pathway to restoring its health!

A template letter can be found on the Russian Riverkeeper website:

Comments are directed to Mr. David Kuszmar:

Mr. David Kuszmar, PE

Watershed Protection Division, TMDL Unit

North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board

5550 Skylane Boulevard, Suite A,

Santa Rosa, CA 95403

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Framework Proposal and Asks

We agree with the Water Quality Control Board that the framework should adhere to the four Guiding Principles:

  1. Sound Science
  2. Accountability
  3. Transparency
  4. (public) Accessibility

Sonoma County Conservation Action, in partnership with the Russian Riverkeeper, are very concerned about several core deficiencies in the framework, summarized below.

  • We ask for a public hearing process before new enrollments in the trading program.
  • We ask for a “local advisory group” to be incorporated with a diverse membership of residents, local water advocates, scientists, engineers and academia that is independent of parties associated with implementing the draft Framework. OR a full public hearing process to fully vet any practices proposed for pre-qualification.
  • We ask for baseline requirements before any trading activity is allowed with unregulated non-point sources (generators of pollution or sellers of credits). This means that any eligible party for credit generation must meet current EPA Water Quality Standards for Phosphorous.
  • We ask that any new trading parties accepted into this program have Total Maximum Daily Load’s (TMDLs) developed, as is the baseline for all other trading programs on the west coast.
  • In order to meet the guideline of Sound Science, we expect that when new pre-qualified practices are approved, site specific pre and post project water quality monitoring will be conducted during rain events when pollutants are discharged. This will help ensure the accuracy of computer models in determining credit quantification.
  • We encourage the program provides funding to large long-term restoration projects that either reduce legacy Phosphorus in the Laguna or improve the Laguna’s ability to process and sequester nutrients in vegetation such as riparian trees.
  • We ask for public access, as per the guiding principles, to program credit certification, registration and tracking information. We also strongly believe that all associated documents to related pollution reduction activities working to achieve baseline requirements for Phosphorous, such as Farm Plans, be available to the public via a website.

We additionally ask that the process for designing the draft Framework come back to public review after this comment period and before being sent to the State Waterboard.

Water Quality Trading Background

The Regional Water Board is putting together a draft framework for water quality trading in the Laguna de Santa Rosa Watershed, a practice that is done in areas around the state. This framework proposes setting up a “marketplace” for trading Phosphorous, a nutrient that drives the profound pollution affecting our Laguna, and would help the City of Santa Rosa and Town of Windsor comply with their permits that allow zero discharge of Phosphorous.

We recognize providing an alternative for our cities makes sense to help the Laguna recover, while at the same time, we want to ensure that this program is able to actually reduce pollutants, not just shift them around.  

A review of other existing Water Quality (eg Pollution) Trading programs around the country show no positive results in reducing pollutants, so it is important that we learn from the experiences of existing Trading programs to prevent potential abuses of any approved trading in the Laguna.

Key Players

Once reviewed by the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, it will be sent to the North Coast Waterboard, a five-member Board who sets statewide policy, coordinates Regional Water Board efforts and allocates surface water rights and is appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate.

Once at the state level public input is no longer possible.