This pilot project provides baseline monitoring of water quality conditions to supplement future fisheries vulnerability monitoring efforts in the Smith River estuary. It was initiated in 2018 with funding from the Bureau of Indian Affairs Climate Adaptation Planning Program and provides for water quality, benthic macroinvertebrate, and fish tissue sampling to assess existing conditions in the Smith River estuary, also key recovery actions addressed in the NOAA/NMFS SONCC Coho Recovery Plan (SONCC- SmiR.1.2.13 “monitoring and assessing the Smith River and its tributaries for pollutants” and SONCC-SmiR27.2.30 “measuring the indicators, pH, D.O., temperature, and aquatic insects”.
This project has also supported the Nation’s participation with the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (NRWQCB) towards a Smith River Plain Water Quality Management Plan. This Plan would aid in regulating agricultural land discharge associated with lily bulb production on the Smith River Plain, which maintains the highest pesticide application rates in the State of California. Copper-based pesticides, in particular, are heavily relied on for lily bulb production.
In 2020 the NCRWQCB, NOAA/NMFS, and other stakeholders participating in review of the NCRWQCB plan were unable to provide the financial support necessary for research that would facilitate creation of a copper biotic ligand model for the Smith River. The Nation, as part of this estuary vulnerability project, was able to contribute the necessary funds in order to hopefully accelerate the NCRWQCB’s efforts in the watershed.