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Dealing with Temperature Listings on the 303(d) List: Is There a Better Way?

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Pacific Northwest states (Washington, Oregon, and Idaho) have temperature criteria limits to protect for coldwater aquatic fish species, in particular salmon and trout. Temperature is a complex criteria that is naturally affected by many variables, including local climate, the hydrology of the waterbody, and elevation. Human actions can also adversely affect temperature by removing riparian buffers, disrupting natural instream flows, and altering the natural hydrology of the waterbody. State agencies responsible for environmental protection are faced with challenges in identifying waterbodies that are adversely impacted by temperature and determining what is needed to bring the waterbody back into compliance with the water quality standards. This must be done while also factoring in the natural variability of temperature. This paper provides an overview of how temperature criteria have been established in the Pacific Northwest, the importance of temperature to salmon and trout habitat, and how human actions can adversely affect temperatures. It describes the challenges of determining when waters should be listed as "impaired" on the 303(d) list for temperature, and what we have learned to date about developing total maximum daily load (TMDL) studies for temperature impairments. Finally, it explores ideas and alternatives to improving temperature for salmon habitat in a manner that addresses concerns more expeditiously and, where possible, in a less resourceintensive manner. It provides food for thought to state environmental agencies and others interested in furthering the goal of achieving clean water important for the health and productivity of salmon and other aquatic species, in an effort to answer the question: When dealing with temperature listings, is there a better way?
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 October 2007

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