Oregon DEQ Draft Water Quality Report Says 44 Percent Of Oregon River Miles Impaired

A draft report that, among other things, lists Oregon’s water quality impaired waters has been released by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality for review until December 2.

The 2018-2020 Integrated Report on Surface Water Quality and List of Water Quality Limited Waters is a requirement of the federal Clean Water Act and requires the Oregon DEQ to issue the report every two years.

The report itself is a database that combines reporting information for CWA Section 305(b) assessment of all water bodies and the Section 303(d) list of water bodies that do not meet water quality standards. The 303(d) list represents where pollution reduction plans called Total Maximum Daily Loads are needed, DEQ said.

In evaluating 146,057 river miles in the state, DEQ found that 44 percent of Oregon’s river miles are impaired, largely caused by temperature, which is an increase since 2012.

The draft report was released Sept. 30 for public review as a requirement of the CWA and is not the result of a U.S. District Court decision made Oct. 4, according to Nina Bell, executive director of Northwest Environmental Advocates, which filed the water quality case in 2012.

In that decision, Judge Marco A. Hernandez in Portland court ordered DEQ to complete water quality TMDLs for many of Oregon’s river basins within four to eight years, depending on the sub-basin.

The requirements for CWA actions by states and the federal Environmental Protection Agency are:

— Every three years the state and EPA are to adopt water quality standards;

— Every two years the state and EPA compare data and standards and issue a 303(d) list of waters that violate water quality standards (the Integrated Report satisfies this requirement;

— The state and EPA issues TMDLs

— Every five years the state and EPA issue NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permits

DEQ says that the 2018-2020 Integrated Report represents the state’s most comprehensive evaluation of water quality data and information about Oregon’s waters. The draft report is accessible through both an online searchable database and a web-based map tool that is transparent and easy to use.

“Access to clean water is essential to human health and to Oregon’s economy,” DEQ says in a news release announcing the draft public review. “DEQ’s Water Quality Division supports and implements measures to conserve this valuable resource and ensure that clean lakes, streams, and rivers remain part of Oregon’s natural heritage.”

In this draft report, DEQ says it has made improvements to the Integrated Report on Surface Water Quality and List of Water Quality Limited Waters, including a more robust and transparent analysis that is more accessible to the public.

Some highlights to note in the report, according to DEQ, are:

* For the first time, DEQ developed static “Assessment Units” to divide state waters into waterways with similar qualities. The assessment covered 2,871 units, representing 146,057 river miles.

* DEQ held its first statewide data call since the 2004/2006 Integrated Report. DEQ reviewed and included data from over 70 organizations comprising 7 million rows of data and 140 different pollutants.

* The most widespread water quality impairments continue to be temperature, dissolved oxygen, and E. coli.

DEQ says the report:

* Satisfies the requirements of CWA section 303(d) by evaluating the current conditions of all state waters where data exist, including publicly owned lakes, and lists waters that are impaired and need a TMDL.

* Informs the public about the status of state waters, enabling interested parties to comment on the status of Oregon’s waters and provide relevant data.

* Provides a unique opportunity for the public to understand the overall status of Oregon’s water quality and gain a better understanding of how DEQ is maintaining, improving, and protecting Oregon’s waters.

After the public comment period, DEQ will submit the Integrated Report to the EPA for approval, and, once approved, the Integrated Report will be available to the public and used by Oregon to guide its management decisions, DEQ says.

Comments may be submitted to [email protected] or by U.S. mail to:

DEQ Water Quality Assessment

Water Quality Division

700 NE Multnomah

Portland, OR 97232-4100

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