Washington Ecology Begins Review Of Surface Water Quality Standards

Washington is beginning a review of its surface water quality standards and is seeking public input until September 16.

In a Washington Department of Ecology announcement this week, the state agency said it is beginning a periodic triennial review of all of its surface water quality standards, including its goals to protect rivers, lakes, streams and marine waters, and is inviting public involvement (the designated uses).

Ecology has not conducted a triennial review since 2010 because, it says, “we have been in continual rulemaking efforts for the water quality standards since then.” That includes rulemaking for total dissolved gas and for temperature in streams.

In a “Focus Sheet” that describes its review process, Ecology said that its water quality standards include numeric and narrative criteria to protect and support the designated uses in certain waterways.”

“Along with designated uses and criteria, the antidegradation part of our water quality standards protects high quality waters. For Washington’s highest quality waters, the Clean Water Act allows us to designate Outstanding Resource Waters, which provides extra protection from future sources of degradation.”

Ecology is required to do the triennial reviews by the federal Clean Water Act that says it must regularly hold public hearings to review state water quality standards and, if needed, adopt new or modify existing standards. In reviewing standards, the agency is ensuring that current standards align with federally-recommended criteria, that it is responding to public comments and is addressing new scientific information.

The agency says the triennial review is not a rulemaking process, but a public involvement opportunity that helps inform Ecology’s work plan for the next three years. Part of the process is to release a draft list of actions the agency expects to take that are related to the state’s water quality standards.

Its draft work plan is at https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/ezshare/wq/standards/2021TriennialReviewDraftPlan.pdf

Among the actions are to complete current rulemaking to update freshwater criteria for dissolved oxygen and fine sediment and to initiate rulemaking to update its aquatic life criteria for toxics.

Ecology will hold a public comment period to gather feedback on its plan as well as to solicit suggestions for other changes to the water quality standards.

The public can comment in several ways:

Send comments online using Ecology’s eComments form, which is the agency’s preferred method for public comments (https://wq.ecology.commentinput.com/?id=R5TkH

Send comments by mail to:

Marla Koberstein

Department of Ecology, Water Quality Program

PO Box 47600

Olympia, WA 98504-7600

Or comment during the online public hearing:

Sept. 9, 2021 – 1:30 p.m.

Register for the hearing here:

Or, Participate by phone (audio only): 1-415-655-0001, Access code: 177 634 4488

The hearing will begin with a short presentation on Washington’s surface water quality standards and draft work plan, with a question and answer. The formal hearing where the public can comment follows the presentation. Written comments will receive the same consideration as oral testimony.

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