Idaho's Nonpoint Source Management Program
In 1987, Congress established the Nonpoint Source Management Program under section 319 of the Clean Water Act to help states address nonpoint source (NPS) pollution by identifying waters affected by such pollution and adopting and implementing management programs to control it. These programs recommend where and how to use best management practices (BMPs) to prevent runoff from becoming polluted, and where it is polluted, to reduce the amount that reaches surface waters.
DEQ developed Idaho's initial Nonpoint Source Management Program in 1989 through the coordinated efforts of representatives of numerous organizations with an interest in managing NPS water pollution. Idaho has ambitiously pursued implementation of its program, dedicating personnel and funding to advancing NPS water pollution control activities.
Goal and Strategy
The goal of DEQ's Nonpoint Source Management Program is to prevent and eliminate water pollution from nonpoint sources of water pollution in all water bodies in the state. The program focuses predominantly on implementing water quality activities prescribed in water body improvement plans known as total maximum daily loads (TMDLs). Activities are designed to protect and restore beneficial uses (such as swimming and fishing) and to prevent significant threats from present and future activities that may degrade water quality.
DEQ recognizes that for the NPS program to be successful, the process must be inclusive and driven by local wisdom and experience. DEQ's strategy is to provide support to local sponsors and partners to guide decision-making on local issues. DEQ provides support through local pass-through and sound fiscal management of the §319 grants, scientific-based technical assistance, and integration of related aspects of water management, such as surface and ground water, water quantity and quality, economic development, and environmental protection.
Nine Program Elements
In 1996, the Association of State and Interstate Water Pollution Control Administrators and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identified nine components necessary for successful state NPS programs. As outlined in Idaho's NPS management plan, the nine elements adopted by Idaho's NPS management program are as follows:
- Explicit short- and long-term goals, objectives, and strategies to protect surface and ground water.
- Strong working partnerships and collaboration with appropriate state, tribal, regional, and local entities; private sector groups; citizens’ groups; and federal agencies.
- A balanced approach that emphasizes both statewide nonpoint source programs and on-the-ground management of individual watersheds where waters are impaired or threatened.
- State abatement of known water quality impairments resulting from nonpoint source pollution and prevention of significant threats to water quality from present and future activities.
- Identification of waters and watersheds impaired or threatened by nonpoint source pollution and a process to progressively address these waters.
- State review, upgrade, and implementation of all program components required by §319 of the Clean Water Act and establishment of flexible, targeted, interactive approaches to achieve and maintain beneficial uses of waters as expeditiously as practicable.
- Identification of federal lands and objectives that are not managed consistently with state program objectives.
- Efficient and effective management and implementation of the state’s nonpoint source program, including necessary financial management.
- A feedback loop whereby the state reviews, evaluates, and revises its nonpoint source assessment and its management program at least every five years.
DEQ ensures these elements for planning and implementation are received and incorporated at the local level by providing continuous information, education, and technical support through the designated agencies and their partner agencies and by ensuring involvement of local basin and watershed advisory groups throughout the NPS management process.
Progress Toward Meeting NPS Program Goals
The Clean Water Act §319(h) requires EPA to make an annual determination of the adequacy of each state’s progress in meeting the schedule included in approved state NPS management plans prior to state award of grant funds. The annual report is the primary mechanism enabling EPA to determine whether satisfactory progress has been made by the state in meeting the milestones of the NPS management program. Annual reports provide detailed accounts of Idaho's progress toward meeting state program goals, including statewide and sector descriptions, TMDL status and implementation tracking, and grant management.
Field Evaluation Progress Reports
A large majority of funds for NPS projects are passed through to the local level for on-the-ground TMDL implementation projects. DEQ currently oversees approximately 65 active NPS regional projects in Idaho. To ensure that projects are completed in a timely manner and achieve their overarching goal of cleaning up and preventing NPS water pollution, all projects are subject to field evaluation by DEQ staff. DEQ's goal is to field evaluate at least half of the projects annually and to evaluate all ongoing NPS projects over a two-year cycle. Information from these field reports are used in writing the annual report.