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Colville River Fecal Coliform Tmdl: a Look at Advisory Group Negotiation

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As one of the first non-point source TMDLs in eastern Washington, the Colville River Fecal Coliform Bacteria TMDL had several challenges. The fundamental issue was the state water quality standard for fecal coliform bacteria. The locals felt the standard for fecal coliform was arbitrarily set because they did not know of anyone who had gotten sick from swimming in the river. Another significant issue was the TMDL report submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The first TMDL report submitted to EPA needed to be amended to include the wasteload allocations and some additional information. Advisory group members were confused about which version of the report was approved, and they felt the amended report lacked their input. Distrust was another issue, which resulted when a different Ecology representative was assigned to work with the group to develop the implementation plan. As a consequence of these issues, the advisory group felt they had no control, their input was not being heard by Ecology, and that they had little ownership in the process. However, what made this TMDL even more contentious was that local cattlemen believed Ecology saw livestock as the only source of bacteria in the watershed. To resolve these issues Ecology employed a facilitator with an extensive background in facilitating multiparty decision-making processes as well as mediation, strategic negotiation and conflict resolution. After sixteen months of meetings, a good working relationship was established with the advisory group, the Colville River Fecal Coliform Bacteria TMDL Detailed Implementation Plan was completed, and seven people on the advisory group have completed or are in the process of installing best management practices to reduce fecal coliform.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2007-10-01

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