Areas of Special Biological Significance Reference Stream Receiving Water Monitoring and Data Management

Ocean receiving water sampling at Hardy Creek, Mendocino County
Filling multiple sample containers with a clean, intermediate 1-gallon jar
Prime Contractor: 
Period of Performance: 
October, 2012
Project Description: 

In 2012 the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) issued Resolution No. 2012-0012 Approving Exceptions to the California Ocean Plan for Selected Discharges into Area of Special Biological Significance (ASBS), Including Special Protections for Beneficial Uses. The Special Protections in this resolution include the requirement that all entities that discharge stormwater into ASBS must monitor the ocean water quality near their discharges and show that they are not adversely affecting “natural water quality”.  This purpose of this Reference Sampling project is to characterize what “natural water quality” is in northern California in order to provide a reference against which dischargers can compare their water quality data.

As a way to reduce the Special Protections requirements for each individual discharger, and to coordinate monitoring efforts, the majority of northern California dischargers agreed to form and participate in a Northern California ASBS Regional Monitoring Group (RMG). One of the benefits from forming the RMG was sharing the ocean reference sampling effort and the resulting natural water quality reference data. During the first 1-2 year iteration of the monitoring program the SWRCB made funds available (through SCCWRP) to pay for the ocean reference sampling.

Scope of Services: 



In the formation of the RMG, which began in 2009, ADH was responsible for initially reaching out to the northern California stakeholders (dischargers) and holding meetings to discuss a way forward, based on the draft Special Protections. The stakeholders involved included the California Department of Parks and Recreation, National Park Service, Humboldt State University Telonicher Marine Laboratory, City of Trinidad, Trinidad Rancheria, Humboldt County Public Works Department, Humboldt Bay Harbor Recreation and Conservation District, and The Sea Ranch Association. In 2012 SCCWRP and the SWRCB attended several key meetings which resulted in formation of the RMG.


In 2012 ADH developed the RMG’s ASBS 2012-2014 Work Plan and Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP) which involved extensive communications with the RMG in order to develop and agree to the contents of these documents, as well as site reconnaissance visits to numerous potential ocean reference monitoring sites in four counties.

With the RMG, QAPP and Work Plan in place, ADH performed the first two seasons of reference sampling to characterize natural ocean water quality. This involved ocean sampling in wadeable water at the confluence of seven relatively pristine streams prior-to and during three storm events.  Accurate weather forecasting and knowledge of the stream localities was crucial to successful mobilizations and minimizing false-starts. Field sampling consisted of grab sample collection using an intermediate 1-gallon glass jar which was used to fill a portion of 8 different sample containers multiple times until all containers were full. Due to short holding times for some tests, all samples had to be shipped overnight to the analytical laboratories, sometimes requiring the coordination with a commercial courier service for weekend deliveries.

Data Management

All water and sediment samples collected were subjected to analytical testing for a comprehensive suite of physical and chemical analyses as well as 3-species marine toxicity testing, as specified by the QAPP. All data results, including field sampling information, is being added to a California Environmental Data Exchange Network (CEDEN) electronic data deliverable (EDD) and is being purged of all errors prior to final upload to CEDEN.