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NW Fishletter #395, July 1, 2019

[10] Oregon's Water Temperature Plans Due By 2027

A federal judge in Oregon agreed to give the state and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency eight more years to develop new clean-up plans to control temperature in several Oregon rivers.

In a June 11 ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Marco A. Hernandez also ordered the agencies in Northwest Environmental Advocates v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency et al. to prioritize plans that affect the most pollution discharges.

The judge approved Oregon and EPA's proposal to replace several TMDLs--or total maximum daily loads--on a rolling schedule between 2023 and 2027. The judge also declined to mandate whether the state or the EPA should take a primary role in writing the new plans. But he agreed with NWEA that TMDLs with more pollution discharge permits should take priority, and directed the agencies to work with the nonprofit organization and reformulate its timeline with new priorities.

NWEA executive director Nina Bell said in a news release that the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality wanted to complete the Willamette River TMDL near the end of the schedule, and that's the river for which the most pollution discharge permits are issued.

The court had previously ruled that 12 years was too long to rework temperature plans in several major rivers.

NWEA had already won a ruling that prohibits Oregon from using its TMDLs to override temperature standards that protect salmon, the NWEA news release said. Oregon had established temperatures as high as 90 degrees Fahrenheit, which is lethal to salmon. "The high temperatures that are ubiquitous in Oregon waters threaten the continued existence of the region's cold-water salmon, steelhead and bull trout," the release said.

Under that order, the agencies must complete new TMDLs for the Willamette Basin, Umpqua Basin, Rogue Basin, Miles Creek subbasin, Lower Grande Ronde subbasin, Malheur Basin, John Day Basin, Hells Canyon in the Snake River, Applegate subbasin and Sandy Basin.

The EPA and Oregon are required to file a status report with the court every four months with notice of their progress.

The agencies are now writing new TMDLs for temperature in the Klamath and Lost River watersheds, which are due by September; and for mercury in the Willamette River basin, due by November. -K.C. Mehaffey

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NW Fishletter is produced by NewsData LLC.
Publisher/Editor-in-Chief: Mark Ohrenschall, Editor: K.C. Mehaffey
Phone: (206) 285-4848 Fax: (206) 281-8035

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