U.S. Water News Online
PORTLAND, Ore. -- A federal judge ruled that the state's
water quality standards violate the federal Clean Water Act by not
adequately protecting threatened and endangered species.
U.S. District Judge Ancer L. Haggerty ordered the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency to issue new federal rules in their
Haggerty said the standards issued by the state Department of
Environmental Quality in 1996 requiring cool stream temperatures to
meet the needs of protected bull trout and salmon were so defective
they have been virtually useless since they were drawn up. For
example, the state set a maximum temperature of 50 degrees for bull
trout spawning and rearing streams. But the state never identified
``The court is left only to wonder how the 50º F. criterion
for bull trout spawning and rearing has been enforced over the last
seven years if Oregon has failed to identify the migratory corridors
to which the criterion applies,'' Haggerty wrote.
The EPA approved the temperature cap although its own reviews
suggested the state would be unable to apply it, he found.
Haggerty ordered the EPA to rescind its approval of the faulty
standards and, within 30 days, draw up a schedule for enacting ones
that meet the Clean Water Act.
``At a minimum, unless the state agrees to come up with new rules
right away, the EPA's going to have to put something out instead,''
said Mike Llewelyn, administrator of the Water Quality Division at
the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.
The ruling came in a lawsuit filed in 2001 by Northwest
Environmental Advocates of Portland against the EPA and the National
Marine Fisheries Service, which had approved the EPA rulings on the
state standards. The state of Oregon, the Oregon Forest Industries
Council and the Northwest Pulp & Paper Association joined the
case on behalf of the federal agencies.
The lawsuit alleged that Oregon's water standards are weak,
favoring industry over the environment.
``People don't realize that the DEQ is frequently not a champion
of the public interest and instead feels compelled to protect the
polluters,'' said Nina Bell, executive director of Northwest
EPA spokesman Bill Dunbar said federal officials recognize the
importance of stream temperatures to protected fish and have been
cataloging streams to make the state standards more workable. He said
the EPA is consulting with the state to decide how best to comply
with the judge's order.
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