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(a) Restoration is an important tool for achieving water quality conditions sufficient to protect and restore beneficial uses. The goal of restoration is to restore the chemical, biological, and cultural integrity of the Tribe’s waters. The Tribe supports and encourages restoration projects that are intended to reduce or mitigate existing sources of soil erosion, water pollution, or impairment of beneficial uses. It is recognized that such restoration projects may temporarily exceed water quality objectives or violate discharge prohibitions under this chapter or the WQCP. Such restoration projects are eligible to apply to YTEP for a water quality permit with a temporary exemption from standards of this chapter and the WQCP.

(b) The exemption criteria set forth below do not fundamentally alter the kinds of projects YTEP otherwise permits under this chapter and the WQCP. The criteria codify Yurok Tribal support of ecological restoration as a tool for water quality protection and advance objectives of this chapter and the WQCP by articulating issues of importance to water quality protection. Further, the criteria remove any disincentives in this chapter and the WQCP to restoration projects and provide greater compliance certainty for such projects.

(c) No restoration project may proceed without site-specific review and authorization by YTEP.

(d) In considering whether to issue a water quality permit with an exemption under this section, YTEP shall give preference to projects furthering any of the following objectives:

(1) Long-term restoration of volitional fish migration and natural flows;

(2) Environmental justice;

(3) Preservation of cultural values; or

(4) Watershed-wide water quality improvement or treatment.

(e) YTEP, at a duly noticed public hearing and after adequate opportunity for public comment, may grant a water quality permit with an exemption for pollutants or mining materials of whatever nature discharged as a result of an ecosystem restoration project whenever YTEP makes findings that such project meets all of the following criteria:

(1) The overwhelming purpose of the project is ecosystem restoration, which is defined as the return of an ecosystem to a close approximation of its condition prior to disturbance, recreating the structures and functions of an ecosystem;

(2) The project materially advances ecosystem restoration goals;

(3) The project when complete will, at a minimum, not hinder volitional fish migration or natural flows;

(4) The project will eliminate, reduce, or mitigate existing sources of soil erosion, water pollution, or impairment of beneficial uses of water;

(5) The long-term water quality benefits of the project exceed the temporary impacts, including cumulative impacts;

(6) There is no feasible alternative to the project that provides comparable long-term benefits to water quality that would comply with the provisions of this chapter and the WQCP, precluding the need for an exemption;

(7) All applicable best management practices and mitigation measures have been incorporated into the project to minimize soil erosion, water pollution, other potential adverse environmental impacts, and impairment of beneficial uses;

(8) The project will limit pollutant discharge to the absolute minimum necessary to correct, restore, or mitigate existing sources of soil erosion, water pollution, or impairment of beneficial uses of water and such discharge is conditioned, as much as reasonably possible, to those times of the year that will minimize impacts on beneficial uses;

(9) The project’s water quality impacts will not, in the short term, unreasonably affect beneficial uses of water or cause a permanent nuisance;

(10) Water quality objectives will be achieved within the shortest amount of time possible;

(11) The permit holder will be under specific measurable timelines to ensure reasonable progress is being made towards meeting the standards;

(12) Any permit issued for the project under this section is conditional and may be terminated at any time; and

(13) The project complies with all applicable Yurok Tribal environmental laws, regulations, plans, and policies. [Ord. 73 § 4203, amended, 5/21/2020.]