Board of Environmental Review Meeting: February 5, 2016

Board of Environmental Review Meeting: February 5, 2016

Summary Items:

  • The EPA approved Montana’s Water Quality Standards for EC and SAR adopted in 2003 and 2006. DEQ staff noted the action would have no impact on their work as the State had already been applying the new standards. It does mean those standards will be applied to federal actions.
  • The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) reported they are still collecting data for electrical conductivity (EC) and sodium absorption rate (SAR) on Otter Creek for purposes of determining site specific water quality standards. They are working with stakeholders and the EPA to apply the “narrative” standards. Direction is needed for purposes of implementing Section 75-5-306 (MCA) that speaks to not having to treat water that is discharged to a level that exceeds the naturally occurring condition.

  • ŸDEQ also reported the stakeholder group formed to assist in drafting rules for SB 325 (which sets forth requirements for water quality standards to be no more than stringent than the non anthropogenic condition of a water body and establish a variance process had held its initial meeting on January 21, 2016. The stakeholder group make up is modeled after the group that worked on developing narrative water quality standards. Rule development is expected to be wide reaching and DEQ expects a deliberative process that could take up to a year.

A board member asked how the Otter Creek process was connected to the SB 325 process. DEQ staff responded that SB 325 contemplated situations where there was very little data. By contrasted, the DEQ has collected substantial data relative to Otter Creek. Both processes will move forward on their own track.

Rulemaking Items of Interest:

The DEQ was granted approval to hold a hearing and request public comment on Montana’s Water Quality Standards as part of the 2016 Triennial Review. The hearing and 45-day comment period are new federal requirements. Unlike the normal rulemaking process, the DEQ is not required to respond to all comments. The department should be contacting interested parties about the process in the very near future.