U.S. Water News Online
YAKIMA, Wash. -- The state Department of Ecology has
completed its revision of Washington's water quality standards with
changes designed to better prevent pollution and provide more
protection for threatened fish.
``In developing the standards, we really did our best to balance
what (were) sometimes very sharp, conflicting perspectives,'' said
Tom Fitzsimmons, Ecology director.
``We did this by figuring out what we think are real-world
solutions to the conflicts.''
The changes have been almost 10 years in the works and are
supposed to reflect not only new science but new state and federal
requirements for keeping water clean and safe.
``Ecology spent the past decade developing this proposal so that
it would protect the environment yet be reasonable to implement,''
``We believe we have achieved the goal of preserving water quality
without creating undue burdens on businesses, cities or farms.''
Among the most significant rules changes are requirements to keep
water in rivers and streams cooler for temperature-sensitive fish,
such as bull trout and Dolly Varden, a char. Earlier rules dealt only
with salmon, which can thrive in slightly warmer water.
For example, the new temperature standard in uppermost or highest
elevation headwaters is 53.6 degrees, which is colder than the old
standard and designed to protect char, said Leslie Thorpe, a
spokeswoman for the Ecology Department.
It would affect waterways such as the Cascade River, a tributary
of the Skagit River, in the Mount Baker National Forest. Most char
rivers are in high-elevation forested areas.
The rules also are written to better prevent pollution of pristine
waters and to help clean up bodies of water that fail to meet
Under the new rules, if a new business wanted a discharge permit
for a body of water that had been designated as clean, the business
would have to show it was using the best management and treatment
processes to minimize any pollution -- and that the pollution had
been determined to be an acceptable trade-off for a public benefit,
such as creating jobs in a community.
Under the old standards, it wasn't always clear for which uses the
bodies of water were being protected. The rules revisions are written
in ``plain English'' and organized to be easier to understand.
Draft standards were circulated earlier this year, and eight
public meetings were held across the state. The department received
more than 1,400 comment letters by the March deadline.
The updated standards must still be approved by the federal
government before they take effect.
``On balance, it's fair to say they are on the whole more
stringent,'' Fitzsimmons said. ``We think they are more protective of
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