OPEN LETTER: California State Water Resources Control Board

California State Water Resources Control Board


During the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors meeting on March 26, 2024, Matt St. John spoke on behalf of the SWRCB, condemning the idea of declaring a State of Emergency for water quality and toxic sediment in the Klamath River. Mr. St. John claimed that the Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC) was fulfilling its permit requirements and that their testing showed no concern for public safety. He also referenced the County of Siskiyou’s water quality test from the end of January, assuming that the levels of contamination would have been higher due to the close timing of the breach of the dams at that time, and that they would be significantly reduced now.

However, Mr. St. John’s statement overlooks the fact that KRRC has very limited testing requirements for water quality and sediments, omitting several toxic heavy metals. Furthermore, his assumption that water quality has improved over time is unfounded, as sediment containing heavy metals is being rapidly deposited into Jenny Creek and the Klamath River. Mr. St. John may also be unaware of the results of private water and sediment tests that have shown elevated levels of toxic heavy metals, which have been publicly shared.

The statements made by Mr. St. John could expose the SWRCB to significant liability if any individuals experience complications due to exposure to the water in the Klamath River or its sediments. His statements are negligent and dangerous, lacking factual data to substantiate the claim that the water is not a public health risk. He relies on minimal data from KRRC and a single report from the County of Siskiyou, assuming that conditions have improved. Perhaps Mr. St. John should personally engage with residents experiencing skin irritation and respiratory issues from the project. Mr. St. John reiterated his stance in a recent interview.

The SWRCB’s continued heavy burden on Siskiyou County agriculture and producers, all the while, neglecting proper oversight and testing on the largest dam removal project in history, is deeply concerning. Once again, the SWRCB has eroded any possibility of public trust. They should prioritize the Klamath River and its water quality conditions, conducting regular testing of water and sediments to ensure public safety. This situation should be treated as the emergency it is.

Jess Harris

Siskiyou County Resident


CC: NOAA Fisheries, CA Department of Fish and Wildlife, Gov. Newsom,

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