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IMPLEMENTING WATERBODY/WATERSHED PLANS AND FACILITATING WATER QUALITY STANDARDS REVIEWS FOR URBANIZED WATERBODIES

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There are over twenty New York Harbor waterbodies on New York State's 303(d) List. The City of New York is a major participant in the New York/New Jersey Harbor Estuary Program and its efforts to develop TMDLs for harbor waters. Many of the listed waterbodies are urbanized estuarine tributaries with CSO and stormwater discharges. Water quality conditions do not meet the numerical and narrative water quality standards of their designated uses at all times. However, selected water quality standards for sub-categories of uses are now being met in many locations and plans are being implemented to achieve compliance in others. The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is conducting a multi-phase program to address the impacts of combined sewer overflows (CSOs), water pollution control plants (WPCP), and other pollutant sources on New York Harbor waterbodies as part of its continuing efforts to maintain and improve water quality in the Harbor and its tributaries. A watershedbased approach is being utilized to conduct an integrated evaluation of the interdependent factors affecting receiving water uses, including point and non-point sources, upland and shoreline uses, habitat, sediment, and water quality with the active participation of stakeholders. Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), CSO policies, regional planning, and other regulatory issues are being addressed simultaneously by the DEP, which is conducting comprehensive planning to address these issues for many TMDL-listed waterbodies.

Many tributaries on the State's 303(d) list have unique characteristics that require site-specific approaches. Waterbody/watershed facility plans are being developed and implemented by the DEP that employ a variety of engineering approaches to address the physical, chemical and biological factors affecting use attainability. Plans facilitate combinations of CSO abatement and waterbody and riparian improvements. Inter-agency cooperation is ongoing with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to identify cost-effective ecosystem restoration opportunities. The plans address evolving regulatory processes such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) marine dissolved oxygen criteria, new enterococci criteria promulgated by the BEACH Act, long-term CSO planning, and TMDL development. Anticipated water quality conditions are expected to benefit aquatic communities, improve recreational opportunities such as boating and fishing, and enhance waterbody aesthetics to conditions consistent with desired waterbody and riparian uses. Even though the plans will significantly improve water quality and ecological conditions, they will not completely eliminate impacts. The planning process, which includes TMDL development within a knee-of-the-curve approach, indicates that some plans will not fully achieve designated narrative and numerical water quality standards; existing designated uses may not be reasonably attainable. The DEP has applied EPA's 2001 guidance for Coordinating CSO Long-Term Planning With Water Quality Standards Reviews to identify a planning and regulatory process that will achieve state and federal water quality goals. Following EPA guidance and other resources such as the Water Environment Research Foundation's Use Attainability Analyses (UAA) technical publication (Michael & Moore, 1997; Novotny et. al., 1997), the DEP is developing the necessary information for water quality standards reviews and UAAs that can be used by the State of New York if such a course of action is appropriate.

The first waterbody/watershed facility plan developed by the DEP was presented at the WEF TMDL 2003 Conference - a case study of Paerdegat Basin. Since then, the regulatory process for Paerdegat Basin is being pursued while more plans have been developed and are being implemented for other waterbodies. These other waterbodies have unique urban characteristics unto themselves and require site-specific comprehensive approaches for achieving TMDL delisting different from those employed for Paerdegat Basin. The DEP's strategic approach to waterbody/watershed planning and water quality standards reviews and example case studies of select plans will be described.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2005-01-01

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