Helena – The Montana Department of Environmental Quality has released its draft report for water quality conditions in Montana for 2015-2017. Called the 2018 Water Quality Integrated Report, it contains information on status and trends of water quality in Montana, as well as a list of waterbodies that don’t support full beneficial use and require a plan for water quality improvement.
The 2018 report notes seven waterbodies previously reported with water quality concerns that now meet applicable water quality standards. These successes can be credited to land management activities such as forest practices, grazing practices or stream restoration projects. All of Montana’s surface waters have water quality goals for things such as aquatic life, which may be harmed by pollutants such as metals, sediment, nutrients and high temperatures. When a waterbody is determined to have an excessive amount of a pollutant, it is identified as needing a restoration plan (also called a Total Maximum Daily Load, or TMDL) for restoring and protecting the waterbody’s beneficial uses and is placed on a list of waters not fully supporting beneficial uses – referred to as the 303(d) list.
“These restoration plans define what is needed for a waterbody to meet water quality standards for a given pollutant, for example, copper,” said Water Quality Division Administrator Tim Davis. “If a waterbody has levels of copper that harm aquatic life, a plan is developed to define the reduction of copper entering the waterbody needed from all sources to attain a level that does not harm aquatic life.”
Waterbodies with restoration plans where activities have resulted in specific pollutants no longer harming a beneficial use in the 2015-2017 period include Clarks Fork Yellowstone River, Stillwater River, Soda Butte Creek, Miller Creek, Fisher Creek, Careless Creek and Jim Creek. Restoration plans addressed 16 pollutant listings on these 7 waterbodies including cadmium, silver, lead, zinc, iron, lead, aluminum, silver and sedimentation.
Improvements to water quality come with great effort from a multitude of people and entities. Coordination among non-profit organizations, landowners, government agencies, other stakeholders and the public were crucial in improving water quality in these waterbodies.
Jim Creek, in the Swan watershed, is an example of how strong coordination helped reduce sediment loads, resulting in water quality improvements that allowed it to be removed from the 303(d) list.
“The creek had long been adversely affected by sediment loading from activities in the watershed,” said Robert Ray of DEQ’s Water Quality Division. “The Flathead National Forest and many other partners have done some outstanding work in this area. These partnerships have led to real improvements in water quality and we are happy to document these results in the Integrated Report.”
Montana has approximately 58,200 miles of perennial rivers and streams and 730,000 acres of lakes and reservoirs greater than 5 acres. The State of Montana has jurisdiction of about 54,800 miles and 641,200 acres, respectively. The tribes and federal government have jurisdiction over the remaining waters.
The Integrated Report is required under the federal Clean Water Act and DEQ must submit it to the Environmental Protection Agency every two years. The 305(b) portion is the status and trends of Montana’s waters, including an assessment of existing water quality conditions and an overview of the state’s water pollution control efforts. The 303(d) list includes the waterbodies that are not fully supporting one or more beneficial uses and need a restoration plan.
The complete draft report can be found on the DEQ’s Clean Water Act Information Center web application: www.cwaic.mt.gov
DEQ is seeking comment on the report through April 21, 2018. Comments should be submitted electronically to the Public Comment page at http://comment.cwaic.mt.gov/ or mailed to: Integrated Report Coordinator, Department of Environmental Quality, P.O. Box 200901, Helena, MT 59620-0901.