Ecology to Revise Washington’s Water Quality Standards
following EPA Ruling
On March 22, 2006 the U.S. EPA formally disapproved parts of Washington’s
water quality standards because they do not go far enough under the Clean
Water Act to protect salmon and bull trout in certain streams and rivers.
The Washington State Department of Ecology is proposing a new set of rules
to fix the deficiencies identified by EPA.
Ecology revised its water quality standards to adopt new
maximum temperature criteria that apply to specific river segments to
protect salmon. 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 trout.
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 by 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 improvements 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
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.
A Public comment period runs from July 5, 2006 through September
5, 2006. Public hearings will be held in five locations around the
state August 7-15, 2006. Click
here for more information.
Contact: Glenn Kuper, Department of Ecology, (360) 407-6848; Marianne
Deppman, Environmental Protection Agency, (206) 553-1237.
Quality Web Site.