Today, NOAA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announce the opening of a 90-day public comment period on the agencies' proposal to disapprove the State of Oregon's coastal nonpoint pollution control program. The two agencies have found that Oregon's program falls short in three key areas. Under the terms of a settlement agreement, EPA and NOAA are required to make a final decision by May 15, 2014.
The settlement agreement is the result of a 2009 lawsuit filed against NOAA and the EPA by the Northwest Environmental Advocates challenging the agencies' joint administration of the Coastal Zone Act Reauthorization Amendments (CZARA) with respect to the state's coastal nonpoint program.
Oregon first submitted its coastal nonpoint pollution control program to the agencies in 1995. Oregon has developed a strong program in most of the areas required under CZARA. Today, only three remaining areas need additional work. These three areas are important for protecting water quality critical to aquatic species and public water supplies. The remaining critical gaps relate to water quality impacts from forestry, septic systems, and new development.
Historically, NOAA, EPA and the states have worked together to develop fully approvable programs. Oregon has expressed a desire to continue working with NOAA and EPA towards full approval and the federal agencies stand ready to help Oregon achieve that goal.
"Oregon is a leader in coastal management, and we hope it can be a leader in protecting coastal water quality from nonpoint source pollution, too," says Margaret Davidson, acting director of NOAA's Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management. "Preventing and reducing coastal nonpoint source pollution, as the Coastal Nonpoint Program is designed to do, is critical to protecting coastal waterways."
"Nonpoint source pollution is the most significant remaining water quality issue in the state and the nation," notes Dennis McLerran, EPA's Regional Administrator for the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. "EPA and NOAA are committed to continuing to work with Oregon to develop a fully approvable Coastal Nonpoint Program."
Any coastal state that participates in the National Coastal Zone Management Program is required to develop a Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Program that describes the programs and enforceable mechanisms the state will use to implement management measures to prevent and control polluted runoff in coastal waters.
The improvements needed in the Oregon program are for controlling impacts from timber harvesting , including measures for protecting small and medium sized streams; measures to protect landslide prone areas; and measures to address runoff from forest roads built prior to modern construction and drainage requirements. Oregon also needs to ensure that septic systems are inspected and properly maintained and that sediment runoff from new development does not enter rivers and streams.
NOAA and EPA also have concerns about nonpoint source impacts from agricultural activities and are inviting comments from the public on the state's agricultural program as well.
If the state does not develop an acceptable coastal nonpoint program, it will not be able to access a portion of the funding received under the Coastal Zone Management Act to implement its coastal management program nor a portion of the funding it receives under the Clean Water Act to implement the state's nonpoint source management program.