Oregon Revising Policy for Water Quality Trading

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is revising its guidance to encourage and expand the use of water quality trading in the state. Water quality trading is an innovative program that allows facilities that discharge wastewater to a stream or river to meet regulatory obligations by:

  • purchasing equivalent or larger pollution reductions from another source; or
  • taking action to protect or restore streamside areas, wetlands, floodplains and aquatic habitat to reduce pollutant impact.

For example, DEQ may allow a wastewater discharge permittee to restore stream bank vegetation to prevent stream warming and improve habitat for wildlife and fish instead of requiring the permittee to cool its wastewater discharge. These types of restoration activities provide for a greater ecological benefit for the watershed than would occur if the permittee only cooled its wastewater.

DEQ is seeking public comment on its proposed updated guidance, formally known as an internal management directive, through July 6. The current internal management directive, completed in 2005, supports actions taken to implement a water quality trading program for the Tualatin River basin, and DEQ wants to expand water trading opportunities to other watersheds throughout the state.

The internal management directive provides guidance to staff, defines trading concepts, and describes different trading scenarios that DEQ anticipates will occur. The agency will evaluate trading programs on a case-by-case basis, making sure programs are consistent with the internal management directive’s guidelines and the water quality permitting process. The updated internal management directive focuses on permittees with National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits and provides a consistent framework for implementing water quality trading throughout the state in these types of permits.

Persons interested in commenting on the proposed “Water Quality Trading Internal Management Directive” may send e-mail, fax, or written comments to Ranei Nomura at DEQ by 5 p.m. July 6 to nomura.ranei@deq.state.or.us; 541.686.7551; or Ranei Nomura, DEQ Eugene Office, 165 E. Seventh Ave., Suite 100, Eugene, OR 97401.

The agency will review all comments, may revise the proposed directive, and expects finalization by July 30.

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