Total Maximum Daily Loads and Why Do I Care?

The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has begun the planning process for developing Total Maximum Daily Loads for waterbodies in the Oregon Mid-Coast Basin. The initiation of this process has been a long-time coming. Devils Lake was originally listed based on data collected between 1986-1991 under Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act for Chlorophyll and pH and Thompson Creek was listed for fecal coliforms. Over the coming 18 to 20 months, the DEQ will be developing Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs), for these waters.

What is Section 303(d) of the Clear Water Act?

The goal of the Clean Water Act (CWA) is “to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters” (33 U.S.C §1251(a)). Under section 303(d) of the CWA, states, territories, are required to develop lists of impaired waters. These are waters for which technology-based regulations and other required controls are not stringent enough to meet the water quality standards set by states. The law requires that states establish priority rankings for waters on the lists and develop Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs), for these waters. A TMDL is a calculation of the maximum amount of a pollutant that a water body can receive and still safely meet water quality standards.

The TMDL allocates that load to point sources, (Wasteload Allocation or WLA), and nonpoint sources (Load Allocation or LA) which include both human and natural background sources of the pollutant. In many cases, the TMDL analysis is the trigger for determining the source(s) of pollutants. A TMDL may contain WLAs only, LAs only, or a combination of both. Under the Clean Water Act TMDLs are not self-implementing, meaning EPA cannot enforce implementation of a TMDL once the analysis is complete. If the TMDL identifies nonpoint sources of pollutants as a major cause of impairment, states can apply for EPA funded grants, called section 319 grants. These grants can be used to fund state programs for nonpoint source assessment and control as well as individual projects.  DLWID has recently completed work categorizing historically water quality data into a modern database format under a 319 grant.

How Will This Process Begin?

The DEQ has formulated TMDL stakeholder committees consisting of representatives from local, state and federal government, special districts, Tribal Nations, private industry, forestry, agriculture, conservation, NGOs, watershed councils, landowners.  It is the job of these stakeholder committees to play an advisory role and one such committee, the Local Stakeholder Advisory Committee (LSAC) will hold their kick off meeting from 9-5 on March 20, 2012 in Newport. This group will assist the Mid‐Coast TMDL Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), which will play a large role in developing TMDL’s and thier associated implementation plans. Specific areas of interest in TMDL include Temperature, Bacteria, Sediment, Dissolved Oxygen, Aquatic Weeds, and Harmful Algal Blooms.

How do I Stay Informed on the Process?

Of course, check back on a regular basis to the Devils Lake Navigator as we plan to try to decipher this complicated topic and report it to you.  You can check in with the DEQ by following these links

Sign up to Receive Email Updates on Mid-Coast TMDL Development

Total Maximum Daily Loads Overview DEQ

Total Maximum Daily Loads Program Mid-Coast Page

Total Maximum Daily Loads Map

Background on the Clean Water Act from EPA

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Filed under DLWID, Water Quality

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