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Water: Nonpoint Source Success Stories



Coos Coquille Watershed -
Haynes Inlet Project Allows Shellfish Beds to Reopen

Coos County, Oregon, has long been economically dependent on resource-related industries, such as agriculture, timber, and fisheries. Cutbacks in employment opportunities in these industries can cause economic decline throughout the area. The county is currently working to diversify employment opportunities and to enhance its historical resources. Expansion of the shellfish industry is one opportunity to diversify county employment opportunities.

Haynes Inlet has been identified as a desirable shellfish production area because it provides rich mudflats and clam waters during storms. However, shellfish production had to be prohibited in this portion of the Coos Bay Estuary because of elevated fecal coliform counts.

The estuary has three fresh water inputs: Larson, Palouse, and the much smaller Hollow Stump Creeks. In 1983, the two larger tributaries, Larson and Palouse creeks, exceeded the standard for fecal coliform in waters used for contact recreation. When these creeks enter the estuary, the fecal coliform is carried into the Haynes Inlet area.

Spontaneous, piecemeal initiatives

In 1991, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) entered into a funding agreement with the EPA to begin enhancing fish habitat on Palouse Creek. Meanwhile, staff from the Division of Health's Shellfish Program, in cooperation with ODFW, began a water quality evaluation and the Division of Health completed a sanitary survey of the area. In the latter project, each home was visited to document the condition of its on-site septic system and other potential nonpoint sources of pollution. The Oregon Department of Agriculture also met with the owners of a Confined Animal Feeding Operation to address its potential for fecal coliform problems. Although some links existed between these projects, they were not coordinated, and their goals were not defined.

Next, a coordinated effort began to bring the community and these many agencies together through a series of meetings. Invited agencies included the Oregon Department of Agriculture, Oregon Health Division, Coos Estuary Shellfish Task Force, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Oregon State University Extension Service, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Water Resources, Coos County Commissioners, and Economic Development. It was the first coordinated effort between government and private landowners to resolve resource issues.

Shellfish beds reclassified

If mutual goals are identified and peer pressure applied on a community level, the effort can be successful. Downstream users began asking upstream sources for help. The perception that agency and landowners have different and mutually exclusive goals is slowly being dispelled. Mutually acceptable approaches have begun to surface that pave the way for project implementation. Many area landowners have stepped forward and implemented projects on their properties.

They have, for example, installed fences to restrict cattle and protect seedlings and used wooden structures to encourage the formation of pools and hold back gravel. They have also replanted riparian areas, in some cases with willow and fir trees, which filter and reduce runoff, decrease sedimentation, and provide shade. As protection against further degradation, they have installed pump-noses for cattle to drink from and created channel ponds for livestock watering areas.

The Haynes Inlet area has been reclassified from prohibited for shellfish production to a conditionally approved growing area; and so has the remainder of the classified area in Upper Coos Bay. Max and Lillie Clausen, oyster growers, are thrilled to open this area to shellfish production and have just completed construction of a processing facility on the inlet that will employ up to 25 persons full time.

In addition, Oregon's 1995 legislature passed a bill resulting in the resolution of stock watering restrictions. Landowners are now free to participate in projects that exclude stock from streambanks without fear that they may forfeit their historic source of water for their stock.

Government and private landowners as partners are making great progress to clean up the estuary and to develop the community's economic base. Together, they are making a real and measurable difference to the watershed.

Lessons learned in the Haynes Inlet project, including the need for, and the way that resource management goals can be coordinated, are currently being applied in other Coos County watersheds. Strong councils have been formed to represent area landowners. These councils are privy to technical guidance provided by the coordinating agencies. Such partnerships are significant in Coos County; they enhance watersheds and provide improved water quality and fishery resources. Government and private landowners as partners are making great progress to clean up the estuary and to develop the community's economic base. Together, they are making a real and measurable difference in the watershed.

CONTACT: Ivan Camacho
Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
(503) 229-5088

Tualatin River Vastly Improved -
TDMLs and Section 319 Included in Basinwide Initiatives

Pollution problems in Oregon's waterways are nothing new. In 1938, the State Sanitary Authority now known as the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) was created to clean up the Willamette River. The first efforts focused on limiting discharges from industry and sewage treatment plants, but demands on the water are changing as communities grow and chemical uses increase.

To address these changes, the DEQ is now working with a strategy that sets limits known as Total Daily Maximum Loads (TMDLs) for each pollutant entering a body of water. TMDLs are established for waterways that fail to meet certain standards for water quality. They describe the amount of each pollutant a waterway can receive without violating water quality standards. DEQ considers future growth and development in establishing these limits, then adds a margin of safety to its calculations. TMDLs take all pollution sources into account, including discharges from industry and sewage treatment facilities, runoff from farms, forests, and urban areas, and natural sources such as decaying organic matter or nutrients in soil.

In 1988, Oregon's Environmental Quality Commission (EQC) established TMDLs to improve the water quality of the Tualatin River. This action established in-stream criteria for total phosphorus and ammonia-nitrate at various locations on the Tualatin River and at the mouths of certain tributaries. The TMDLs for phosphorus and ammonia were necessary to bring the river into compliance with dissolved oxygen and pH standards and the criteria for ammonia toxicity and nuisance algal growth.

Significant reductions in point and nonpoint source pollutant loadings followed the establishment of the TMDLs and have greatly improved the Tualatin River over the last 10 years. Data collected over the last several years show the river to be in compliance with water quality standards most of the time.

Most of the reductions resulted from the construction and subsequent upgrading of two advanced tertiary municipal wastewater treatment facilities by the Unified Sewerage Agency. Both facilities, Rock Creek and Durham, have very stringent water quality-based effluent limits for biochemical oxygen demand, phosphorus, ammonia, and chlorine, and now meet the waste load allocations established by the TMDLs.

Forestry, agriculture, and urban land uses in the Tualatin Basin were assigned nonpoint source load allocations through the TMDL process, and best management practices were used to bring the loads into compliance. Designated Management Agencies (DMAs) are responsible for implementing the practices for their respective land uses. The DMAs are the Unified Sewerage Agency; the cities of Portland, Lake Oswego, and West Linn; Clackamas County/Rivergrove, Multnomah County; Washington County; and the Oregon Departments of Agriculture and Forestry.

The section 319 program has also funded projects that reduce nonpoint source pollution in the Tualatin Basin. These projects increase local involvement and stewardship in nonpoint source pollution control projects and contribute to environmental education and water quality monitoring. Two examples are the Dairy-McKay Hydrologic Unit Area (HUA) Project conducted by the Oregon Graduate Institute, and the Student Watershed Research Project of the Saturday Academy.

HUA project demonstrates link between land management and improved water quality Extensive federal and state funds have been applied to agricultural and forested watersheds in the Tualatin Basin to promote and implement best management practices (BMPs), but the connection between improved land management and improvements in surface water quality has not been sufficiently documented.

The Dairy-McKay HUA Project is designed to assess the impact of agricultural BMPs on water quality in an agricultural watershed. Its overall objective is to monitor the water and relate any changes in water quality to modifications in land management practices in the watershed. If such a relationship can be documented, better recommendations to managers will be possible; that is, the most effective, rapid, and economical land management practices can be selected and implemented to improve water quality. Section 319 projects help identify and evaluate local efforts to use agricultural best management practices in the project area. The Oregon Department of Agriculture is working closely with producers; the DEQ's contribution is to validate the practices and reflect them in policy developments.

Students contribute to regional database

Saturday Academy, a community-based precollege education center of the Oregon Graduate Institute of Science and Technology, has developed a program that encourages middle and high school students to add information to the regional watershed database.

The Student Watershed Research Project (SWRP), partly funded by section 319, involves teachers and students performing in-field research with practicing scientists. During the school year, students collect and analyze physical, chemical, and biological data at sites in the Tualatin Basin and other area watersheds. Throughout the process, teachers and students receive support from SWRP staff and agency scientists. An additional benefit of this project is that many middle and high school students have become interested in, and enthusiastic about, water quality in the Tualatin River and other streams in the Portland area.

The data collected by students in the SWRP program are high quality data. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality used this database to help develop the state's in- stream dissolved oxygen standard. The SWRP program has also served as a model and a catalyst for the development of citizen monitoring programs. SWRP staff help train citizen groups to use the quality assurance and quality control procedures necessary for the collection and analysis of valid water quality data.

CONTACTS: Ivan Camacho
503 229-5088

Roger Wood
503 229-6893

Oregon Department of Environmental Quality

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