State agency holds last of public hearings to change surface water rules

by Lois Krafsky-Perry,
Citizen Review Online


Port Angeles, WA - The Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE) held the 7th of eight statewide public hearings for their proposed changes to water quality standards on Feb. 5 at the Vern Burton Center. The hearings started at 8 p.m. after a presentation and question-and-answer time.

The proposed changes to the water quality standards affect all surface waters in the state. Changes include stricter temperature standards, new criteria for bull trout, and moving from a "class-based" system to a "use-based" system.

Many of the individuals testifying raised the question of the tougher temperature standards. Others raised questions about the cost of the new rules, especially to small business and the consumer, who will be hit the hardest. A few raised the incorporation by reference of the DOE's stormwater management plan, which has been highly criticized for its enormous cost to implement, weighing heavily on the backs of small business, in particular.

The hearing setup was somewhat unusual, in that a table was set up at the front of the room, with the facilitator facing the audience, and the person offering testimony with their back to the audience. A highly controlled setting, it was difficult to hear and see expressions of face, and for any interaction with the person testifying and the rest of the audience.

Following are some excerpts from those who testified:

Glen Gaitley of Jefferson County Conservation Dist has been in water quality monitoring for 10 years, in addition to the 10 years as a fishery biologist for Fish and Wildlfe. He said he was pleased that DOE has changed the parameters for bacteria to e-coli; he likes the fact that it's consistetn with the fecal coliform parameter. Regarding temperature, he stated that Jefferson County has two of the most pristine water bodies: Snow Creek and Salmon Creek. He said that he monitoried the temperature with a data log for several years, but that under the proposed new standards, both creeks would have failed the criteria. "Of course the temperature gets warmer as it goes downstream," he said. He believes that 16 degrees is a bit stringent and set too low. "We found that our streams would pass if we had 18 degrees during the summer temperatures and 14 around Oct. 1 or Sept. 1," he stated. He said that would hopefully protect the spawning salmon.

Regarding dissolved oxygen - again looking at the two creeks - at 16 degrees, 100% saturation is very close to the criteria, Gaitley stated. The worst months would be July August and September (the summer months). "I feel that we would have to get 100 percent saturation to meet the criteria. It would only take one bad month to ruin the averages," he stated.

Gaitley said the conservation district is working with landowners and farmers "a lot" to establish cover including planting trees. "No doubt we can do better. If we're setting standards that are so stringent that we are flunking when they're coming out of pristine forests, and they end up on a 303d list - if we've failed the standard," he affirmed. The 2002 State of the Salmon Report (Governor Locke's report) on pg. 22 says that a scientific credible strategy should be based on what is possible, attainable and sustainable," he concluded.

Marguarete Glover, a small business owner, had many questions to raise about the meanings involved in the proposed rules. Small business Economic Statement - pg. 1 - please explain who are the small businesses - and end users. I would like (pg 1) some criteria questions - would like examples of businesses that reflect criteria. Permit limits are set by government - not really chosen by business. She also wanted to know what "other lower cost mechanisms" are.

Page 2 - want example - antigradation - federal requirements are exempt - page 3 - specific water bodies more constrained. Are you talking about you're to lower a temperature standard? Where are those reaches? We have some portions that naturally exceed the current standards - how did you arrive the figure of 3 degrees difference - page 4 - fresh water reaches including lakes - all lakes? I haven't read all of this - will put more in writing.

Larry Williams spoke next. He is a member of Port Angeles city council. "I was alerted today about 8 a.m. to this meeting. I understand that I sort of stumbled onto this public hearing tonight. I'm perplexed why 10 years of work needs to go through a public process that is about a week and a half long - there are 8 different presentations - we're number 7 - the others started last week - there are 103 pages - that are changes in the WAC - another 50-100 pages in econ. Impact statement. We have until March 5 to review and comment on this - I'm sure we're going to have a little discussion with our legislators when we go down to Olympia to visit with the Washington Association of Cities. I understand that this alludes to the Western WA Stormwater Manual - that is of grave concern to us in this area - we have already commented on the stormwater manual - have some serious reservations about the economic impact on the City of Port Angeles.

Barb Kitchen represent five county members of the Washington Association of Realtors. She said they had formed a task force to get through this document. Of primary concern- we have worked extensively with the stormwater manual. If you reference the document, I have to believe the document will have some authority. I question the mixed messages to local governments and the confusion to the general public. I find it disconcerting that it's referenced in something that will be made into law.

She raised the issue that it will cost $40,000 per employee to small businesses as a high estimate. We want to protect the environment and we want to do the right thing - a small business with 10 employees would be $400,000 - and that's what it would be, she said.

Sue Forde, a small business owner, raised several issues, including definitions, the stormwater manual and the cost to small business.

One example she used was about "aesthetic values must not be impaired…" "Who determines 'what' is artistically beautiful? Since these rules are being made and enforced by the DOE, one would presume that the perception would be determined by the DOE's staff," she said.

Forde raised the question of the use of modeling to determine results. She quoted a US Geological Survey paper, which states that "modeling is considered a 'quicksand for water temperature'" The author, John M. Bartholow, expresses that he is troubled about the errors to be found in modeling, and "casts doubt on the confidence in the modeling we have traditionally done for answering certain specific questions."

Forde continued with other examples of lack of "sound science" in the proposed rules. "The use of "optimum fish growth" to set standards - the fact that standards are extrapolated from laboratory studies when fish live in a diverse environment; the use of fixed seasons in the proposed rules - an attempt to regulate nature to comply with temperature and oxygen standards between fixed dates - is not sound science. The use of a "one-size-fits-all" for the entire state is not sound science. The exclusion of thermal refuges where fish avoid high temperatures is not sound science. "Fish use" is primary and restrictive; and "human actions are not allowed to further lower the water quality". The DOE says it will take "appropriate and definitive steps to bring the water quality back to levels which meet the water quality standards." One wonders what the agency considers "appropriate and definitive", and at what cost - especially to farmers, for whom we rely on our food supplies," she said.

"The assumption is made that pollution exists in our rivers, lakes, and other water bodies. This assumption is not science-based. The use of models, as previously indicated, is one problem.

"The new rules, using a "use-based maximum temperature limit" is largely without scientific report. A scientist with the Oregon Cattlemen's Association was called upon to present her findings to the Skagit County Commissioners. Her findings noted that no data collected prior to the inception of the critical areas buffers there established pollution problems.

"Sixteen sites were tested. Temperature data was collected every hour using data loggers for 14 days at a time throughout the summer. No thermal pollution was detected. No nitrates or phosphates were found testing to one-tenth of a part per million. No fines were found at any site. Streamside testing was based on soil types, species, size and amount of trees and vegetation. No nutrients were found that would result from non-point pollution from runoff from adjoining lands. Here is an example of regulations required for no reason, since there is no pollution.

"Larson also explained that the laws of physics, the air mass that surrounds rivers and creeks determine that water's temperature, reaffirming that shade does not cool water.

"Near record returns of salmon in recent years have led credible researchers to believe that improved ocean conditions is the major factor in the turnaround in population of wild and hatchery salmon.

"Last, but not least - THE COST.

"The cost to implement these new proposed rules can be back-breaking, especially to small business. In a time when our state has the 3rd highest unemployment in the nation, we need to be looking at ways to help new and existing businesses - especially small businesses, which have always been the backbone of the nation's economy - not causing more of them to shut down,". Forde concluded.

Bill Peach - Rayonier - support DOE's proposal such as forest practices - should not have to go through any further review. The Forest & Fish Report anticipated change in water quality standards and have already complied. Forest & Fish based forest-practice rules. I urge you to adopt the new standards.

Steve Marble - Like many of the previous speakers, I have concerns about the economic ramifications of the proposed rules. Page 6 - some publicly owned treatment works - can DOE - industrial permits - what is "marginal"? $500 - $5,000? Can DOE explain the model basis for the Monte Carlo with the cost of $40,000 per employee for small businesses? The state cannot continue to burden industry, - frozen prepared fish, paper mills, concrete products, electric services. We need to seek a balance, and consider the economics of our state.

Others raised the issues of the economic impact, especially on small business, questioned the water temperature requirement and the included reference to a stormwater management plan.

You can download the proposed rule by going to this site

To submit comments:

Remember it is imperative to comment on or before March 7, 2003. Comments can be also be made directly to:
Susan Braley: Surface Water Quality Standards' Washington State Dept. of Ecology
PO Box 47600
Olympia, WA 98504-7600
(360) 407-7543
Fax: (360) 407-6426 Email:


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