NWEA Sues EPA for Approving Temperature Clean-Up Plans (TMDLs)

Following the February 2012 federal court ruling in our Temperature Standards lawsuit that Oregon could not automatically change its water quality standards without federal agency approval, NWEA filed a challenge to the results of Oregon’s use of that provision.  All of Oregon’s temperature clean-up plans (called Total Maximum Daily Loads or “TMDLs”) have changed Oregon’s temperature standards without evaluating whether the resulting temperatures are safe for salmon, steelhead, and bull trout.  While Oregon’s standards call for temperatures of 16°C, 18°C, and, rarely, 20°C (that’s a range of 61°F to 68°F), Oregon’s TMDLs change those standards to as high as 32.5°C (90°F).  Temperatures over 18°C are too hot for cold-water fish.  Oregon doesn’t use its TMDLs to control nonpoint sources that cause stream warming but, ironically, it uses TMDLs to change the standards intended by the Clean Water Act to protect fish.