Inadequate forest practice rules lead to federal disapproval of Oregon’s Coastal Nonpoint Program

On January 30, 2015, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the US. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notified the State of Oregon that its Oregon Coast Nonpoint Program is not sufficient to comply with the Coastal Zone Act Reauthorization Amendments of 1990 (CZARA).  NOAA and EPA specifically faulted Oregon’s forest practices, which are inadequate to protect Oregon’s waterways.

Previously, in 1998, these agencies had approved Oregon’s program, subject to specific conditions. In their January 30, 2015 finding, the agencies determined that Oregon’s program was not fully approvable because the program did not meet these conditions as they relate to forestry condition. “By not adopting and implementing the additional measures applicable to forestry and forested lands that are necessary to achieve and maintain water quality standards and to protect designated uses, Oregon has not submitted a fully approvable program under CZARA.” (pg. 3)  The agencies called on the State to, among other things, adopt and implement forestry management measures to protect non fish-bearing streams and small and medium-sized fishbearing streams.

The agencies explained that a large body of science demonstrates that current management practices do not achieve and maintain water quality  and protect designated uses.  They drew particular attention the RipStream study (Oregon Department of Forestry’s Riparian and Stream Temperature Effectiveness Monitoring Project), which “found  that FPA riparian protections on private lands did not ensure achievement of the PCW [(protecting cold water)] criterion under the Oregon water quality standard for temperature.”  (pg. 5)

With regard to non fishbearing streams, and contrary to the way that Oregon manages forest harvest along these streams, they stated that “non-fish-bearing streams should be treated no differently than fish-bearing streams when determining the appropriate buffer width to protect designated uses.” (pg. 7)  This is because salmonid distribution changes over time and other fish and aquatic organisms are important to stream health.

NOAA and EPA declined to rely on Oregon’s Paired Watershed Studies as evidence that current forest practices are sufficient to maintain water quality standards and protect designated uses, explaining that “a variety of factors confound the draft conclusions from the Hinkle Creek study[.]” (pg. 7) (Read more about the limitations of Oregon’s Paired Watershed Studies, as outlined by aquatic ecologist Dr. Chris Frissell in the report following his presentation to the Board of Forestry at the June 23, 2014, Riparian Rules Workshop.)

Below are links to the finding and associated documents.

Read about the federal disapproval in the news:

Regulators: Oregon logging rules don’t protect fish, water 

 Feds reject Oregon’s coastal pollution plan, could impose financial sanctions