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East vs. West: Developing Antidegradation Implementation Guidance

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This paper provides background information and analyses related to development of antidegradation policy implementation procedures pursuant to the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) requirements. The antidegradation concepts contained in state and federal regulations are relatively simple and straightforward: 1) all waters should be protected at some basic level; 2) waters that are cleaner than the basic level should be protected at the existing higher level unless there is a significant local benefit; and 3) some pristine or unique waters should not be degraded even if those benefits can be demonstrated. The definitions and details associated with this simple three-part approach, however, can be complex.

In the coming years, development of detailed implementation guidance will become increasingly important to states in complying with the CWA. Most states have general antidegradation policies. However, in recent years, lawsuits have been filed against states and/or EPA for not implementing the CWA antidegradation requirements. Such suits or threat of suits have compelled some states to develop more detailed antidegradation implementation procedures. Other states, with general policies and procedures, wished to have more detailed procedures that program staff is able to implement.

Tetra Tech assisted a western and eastern state (Arizona and West Virginia) in developing detailed antidegradation implementation guidance pursuant to the CWA requirements. The guidance addressed such areas as: tiered protection levels; applicability of antidegradation review; antidegradation requirements for specific activities; baseline water quality; assessment of the level of degradation; alternatives analysis; social and economic analysis; and public participation.

Although states face similar issues in grappling with antidegradation implementation, the approach taken on a given issue can vary significantly based on the geographic region. Drawing on the West Virginia and Arizona case studies and other research, this paper will discuss key antidegradation issues, similarities and differences taken in eastern and western antidegradation implementation, and lessons learned.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2004-01-01

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