Washington State Revises Water Laws

Feb. 13, 2008
EPA has approved the revisions, which will protect aquatic life

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved recent revisions to the state of Washington’s Water Quality Standards (WQS) regulations. EPA believes these new standards will significantly aid in the protection and recovery of salmon, trout and other aquatic life in the state.

EPA is approving the main elements of Washington’s WQS package, which includes standards specifically identifying where salmon are spawning and rearing. It also identifies the new temperature criteria to protect salmon and other aquatic life.

EPA conducted the review under the authority of Section 303(c) of the Clean Water Act (CWA). Under the CWA, EPA must ensure that the state’s revised water quality standards are protective of aquatic life and do not harm listed species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

According to Elin Miller, EPA’s regional administrator in Seattle, the approval culminates a significant amount of work on the part of Washington Department of Ecology and others to revise the water quality standards to reflect the most recent scientific information on temperature and salmonids.

“We congratulate [the Department of] Ecology on this important accomplishment and appreciate the collaborative process with tribes, federal and state fish agencies and other stakeholders in this effort,” said Miller. “We believe these standards are good for salmon, Puget Sound and the whole State of Washington.”

“Washington has already been implementing these new, more protective standards for more than a year in our new permits and, most recently, in our state’s 2008 Water Quality Assessment,” said Ecology Director Jay Manning. “Getting here has taken some heavy lifting and there is more heavy lifting ahead. We are gratified to be making progress for fish and to protect and restore Puget Sound.”

“EPA’s approval of the state’s water quality rules is an important step in the right direction. We have better water quality standards today because we are all working together. We appreciate the leadership shown by EPA and [the Department of] Ecology throughout the long and difficult process of developing these standards. The tribal co-managers look forward to continuing this collaborative effort. We still have a ways to go, but our commitment to work together will get us there,” said Billy Frank Jr., Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission (NWIFC) Chair.

EPA has also completed consultation on the approval with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service under the ESA. The consultation concluded that this action is largely beneficial to threatened and endangered species in the state of Washington.

Source: U.S. EPA

Image by Burnham RNG, courtesy twentytwo & brand.