Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

June 20, 2012

OSRC board member urging others to embrace EPA-mandated TMDL process

TAHLEQUAH — Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission board member Rick Stubblefield is encouraging his colleagues to participate in the upcoming Total Maximum Daily Load modeling process mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The .037 parts per million TMDL for phosphorus in Oklahoma is set to become law in July, and an overall TMDL for all nutrients is being studied for future implementation.

“I think it’s important that we have appropriate expectations for the establishment of a TMDL,” said Stubblefield. “I wasn’t well-versed in the background, but the process is fascinating.”

Stubblefield said he’s found that in most cases, once a TMDL is established, the process becomes “litigation-driven.”

“Environmental groups push the EPA to establish a TMDL, and once one is established, the affected municipality sues the EPA, as the burden of the cost to make improvements falls to the cities,” said Stubblefield. “Then, the environmental groups come back on the EPA, saying the rules are not stringent enough.”

Stubblefield pointed out the city of Springfield, Mo., recently sued the EPA, saying it would take approximately $300 million to implement the process the EPA has mandated for its stormwater runoff.

OSRC Chairman Riley Needham pointed out many cities have a connection between stormwater runoff and sewage systems, but are working to make separations to prevent pollution.

“Cities are wanting a little more freedom to set plans in motion for the stormwater runoff solutions, especially in established areas of the cities,” said Stubblefield. “Springfield’s concern was with older construction. We’ll have to watch and see how that plays out as years go by.”

Commissioner Gerald Hilsher said he expects the TMDL situation to remain litigation-driven, and most cities, municipalities or others will not voluntarily establish rules, but will work to augment them to their benefit once they’re in place.

Stubblefield said even if a TMDL is established tomorrow, it may be decades before the process is fully implemented.

“The EPA is seeking a successful process. Whether the outcome will be what we hope, I don’t know,” said Stubblefield. “I’m hoping, for our watershed, whether or not we follow the litigation model, the commissioners will have an impact and continue to build coalitions, and put positive results on the ground. This will serve as a protection to this agency.”

In other business, the OSRC approved a joint funding agreement to continue surface water monitoring. The project is conducted by the OSRC and the U.S. Geologic Survey. Cost for the project is paid by several sources – specifically, $58,512 from the USGS matching funds, $44,200 from the USGS National Streamflow Information Program, and $19,200 provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Commissioners also approved the 2012-’13 budget for $596,642.

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