Nearly two decades after the deadline, Oregon submitted a revised – and rejected – coastal pollution plan. NOAA and EPA have now threatened to withhold federal funds if not adequately amended by summer. Phillip Elden explains:
Q: What is the Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Program?
Phillip Elden: This is a federal program required in 29 states. It essentially says these states and territories must more closely regulate nonpoint pollution sources. Nonpoint pollution refers to pollutants from things such as agricultural runoff or wind-born debris.
Q: What actions may the government take against noncompliant states?
Phillip Elden: According to federal law, noncompliant states such as Oregon can lose 30% of funds they receive from the Coastal Zone Management Act and Clean Water Act. Currently, Oregon receives approximately $4 million from these sources. Many environmental groups, including Northwest Environmental Advocates, believe that reducing funds does nothing but perpetuate the problem and have lobbied the government to postpone financial withdrawal. However, many of these same groups acknowledge that the threat could jumpstart state environmental agency leaders into action.
Q: What are some problem areas in Oregon’s most recently submitted plan, in your opinion?
Phillip Elden: Areas of concern revolve around how the plan addresses runoff from outdated, unused, and deteriorating forest roads and landslide-prone areas. Additionally, federal officials have noted that inadequate measures were taken to ensure that herbicide application would have minimal effects on waterways. The feds have, however, approved other measures that had been previously rejected. This includes Oregon’s handling of storm water runoff and sewage disposal.
Q: Has the federal government offered any solutions?
Phillip Elden: Officials from NOAA and the EPA are helping Oregon through extensive environmental consultation. As well, state leaders have been given the opportunity to review other state’s plans to see where shortcomings exist. The hope is that through a cooperative effort, Oregon’s shores will remain beautiful for generations to come.