Washington State Revises Water Quality Standards To Benefit Salmon, Trout

The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) has revised a portion of the state's water quality standards that will make dozens of watersheds across the state healthier for salmon and trout, according to a Dec. 6 announcement.

The state's water quality standards set regulatory requirements for maintaining the health of lakes, rivers and marine waters. The standards set the level of pollution that is allowed to enter waters while keeping them clean and safe for people, fish and wildlife. The standards also cover water quality attributes such as temperature and dissolved oxygen.

The state's revised water quality standards require colder water, and in some cases more dissolved oxygen, to assure healthy summertime spawning and rearing habitat for endangered fish.

The changes are tailored to specific rivers and include major rivers that drain into Puget Sound, such as the Nooksack, Skagit, Stilliguamish, Snohomish, Green, Puyallup and Nisqually.

In Eastern Washington, rivers affected include the Snake, Yakima, Wenatchee, Methow, Okanogan, Naches and Walla Walla rivers.

Starting Dec. 21, Ecology will begin applying the new standards to new wastewater discharge permits and to new water quality improvement plans, known as Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) studies. Existing permits and plans will be implemented over time to make sure the new standards are met. Ecology will begin using the new standards for developing the state "303(d)" list of impaired waters beginning with the 2008-listing cycle.

Ecology will begin implementing the new surface water quality standards to the fullest extent possible under state authority while awaiting formal approval from the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Ecology submitted the latest changes to EPA on Dec. 6.

The water quality standards rule making documents, including final rule language and maps, are posted on Ecology's Web site at http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wq/swqs/new-rule.html.

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