Environmental Protection

Alaska Workshops Part of Designating Tier 3 Waters

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation's public outreach has included four workshops this week on the process of nominating and designating them.

Public workshops in Juneau, Anchorage, and Fairbanks this week and a statewide teleconference are part of the public outreach process being used by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation as it works to establish a statewide process for nominating and designating Outstanding National Resource Waters, known as Tier 3 waters. DEC has developed a website with background information, including three possible alternative nomination and designation processes.

Following the federal Clean Water Act, Alaska's water quality anti-degradation policy creates three classifications of waters. A Tier 3 designation requires a waterbody be maintained and protected in its current state, with no new discharges of pollution allowed.

(Tier 1 waters are waters for which not all water quality criteria are met, which can be due to naturally occurring constituents in the water or pollutants introduced by humans. Tier 2 waters are high quality waters, which include the vast majority of waters in Alaska and where all water quality criteria are met. Tier 3 waters are waters that are required to be preserved in their current status.)

The Clean Water Act requires states to have a process for designating Tier 3 waters but doesn't require states to actually designate any waters; Alaska currently does not have a process in place for designating Tier 3 waters.

Questions to be answered include which waters can be Tier 3 waters, what criteria should be applied before a water can be eligible for the designation, and who can nominate a water for it.

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