Ecology Department to revise water quality standards
Press Release from the Washington State Dept. of Ecology - March 23, 2006
OLYMPIA-The state Department of Ecology (Ecology) today announced it
plans to revise a portion of the water quality standards it submitted to the
federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for approval in 2003.
This decision follows an EPA ruling that Ecology's 2003 standards did not
sufficiently protect salmon and bull trout to satisfy the requirements of
the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) and the federal Endangered Species Act
(ESA). The upcoming revision by Ecology will redesignate a number of stream
and reach segments to more stringent temperature and dissolved oxygen
"We are committed to developing standards that are protective of fish,
especially those species that are threatened or endangered" said Jay
Manning, Ecology director. "We have worked closely with EPA and will soon
propose revised rules that make habitat designations more accurate."
One of the significant changes in the 2003 standards was a shift to a system
that identifies the beneficial uses (such as fish habitat, drinking water or
recreation) of each water body, and the standards needed to protect those
uses. Ecology had planned to enact the standards in a two-step process, by
first adopting the standards needed for different uses, and then spending
the following two to three years going basin-by-basin examining whether the
fisheries uses were as accurate as possible.
EPA concluded that the standards failed to accurately designate fish
habitat in a number of rivers and streams. Ecology intends to propose rules
to fix the problems EPA identified. The formal rulemaking process will
begin in early April.
"We believe Washington did a fine job in revising the majority of
their standards in 2003, and we anticipate moving these through our approval
process, including ESA and tribal consultations," said Michael Bogert,
administrator for EPA's Region 10. "Today's partial disapproval is narrowly
targeted to specific water bodies where additional work is needed to ensure
the protection of known salmon and bull trout populations under the CWA and
The state's water quality standards set regulatory requirements for
maintaining the health of lakes, rivers, and marine waters. The standards
are used to set the level of pollution that is allowed to enter waters while
keeping them clean and safe for people, fish and wildlife.
The rule revisions will affect major rivers that drain into Puget Sound,
such as the Nooksack, Skagit, Stillaguamish, Snohomish, Green, Puyallup and
Nisqually Rivers. These rivers include important spawning, rearing and
migration habitat for ESA threatened species of Chinook salmon and bull
Many activities contribute to water temperature problems. Over the last
century, trees that provide shade along river banks have been removed due to
forestry and agricultural practices and urban development.
Rivers have been altered by dams to store water and levees for flood
control. In a few cases, industrial and municipal discharges can warm a
stream. Although some programs are already in place to restore temperatures
and meet existing standards, the more protective water quality standards
will help focus needed improvement to protect salmon and bull trout.
In addition to concerns about the temperature standards, the National Marine
Fisheries Service and the National Fish and Wildlife Service have expressed
concerns that even the dissolved oxygen standards that apply to the revised
uses may not be protective enough. Ecology will engage in further study in
coordination with federal fish agencies and EPA to determine the most
appropriate standards for dissolved oxygen to protect salmon during spawning
and egg and fry development. Ecology will share the results with the public
in a series of technical workshops.
If results of the study and workshops indicate that the dissolved oxygen
criteria should be corrected, Ecology will begin a follow-up rule-making
process by summer 2008.
EPA will not act on the remainder of the package of water quality standards
adopted by the state in 2003 until it completes its review of the
salmonid-use revisions to be completed during the upcoming rulemaking.
"We believe the remaining package of water quality standards we submitted
are protective of the environment and will satisfy both federal Clean Water
Act and ESA requirements," said Manning. "The 2003 rulemaking was a
significant process that involved many stakeholders including the federal
agencies, tribes and other interested parties."
For more information on Ecology's water quality standards, please
# # #
Contact: Glenn Kuper, Department of Ecology, (360) 407-6848;
Marianne Deppman, Environmental Protection Agency, (206)
For more information:
Ecology's Web site: http://www.ecy.wa.gov
The state Department of Ecology today announced it plans to revise a portion
of the water quality standards it submitted to the federal Environmental
Protection Agency for approval in 2003.
This decision follows an EPA ruling that certain rivers and streams require
more stringent standards to protect salmon and bull trout and to satisfy the
requirements of the federal Clean Water Act and the federal Endangered
Ecology intends to propose rules to fix the problems EPA identified in their
disapproval. The formal rulemaking process will begin in early April.
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