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Category 4b Demonstration for Atrazine Impaired Waters in the Little Arkansas River Subbasin, Kansas

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Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the US Environmental Protection Agency's (USEPA's) supporting regulations in 40 CFR Part 130.7 require states to develop lists of waterbodies impaired by a pollutant and needing a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) (i.e., the Section 303(d) list) and to prepare a TMDL for each waterbody/pollutant combination. USEPA's regulations also recognize that other pollution control requirements may obviate the need for a TMDL. These alternatives to TMDLs are commonly referred to as Category 4b waters as described in USEPA's Integrated Reporting Guidance for Sections 303(d), 305(b), and 314 of the CWA.

For the 2008 reporting cycle, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) assigned 11 nonpoint source atrazine impaired stream segments in the Little Arkansas River subbasin to Category 4b. The foundation of KDHE's Category 4b demonstration is the Little Arkansas Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy (WRAPS) and supplemental information. The WRAPS process grew out of the Section 319 program to foster watershed management for water quality. The process encompasses four stages: development of a stakeholder leadership team; assessment of watershed conditions; planning to identify goals, priorities and applicable programs for the watershed; and implementation of activities to improve water quality.

The Little Arkansas WRAPS, completed in 2004, outlines restoration and protection goals and actions for the surface and groundwater of the Little Arkansas River subbasin. The WRAPS was developed by a stakeholder leadership team consisting of agency advisors (including Kansas State University [KSU] Research and Extension, Natural Resource Conservation Service [NRCS], local County Conservation Districts, and KDHE) and local agricultural producers and atrazine applicators that ultimately implement the voluntary BMP practices. The leadership team is currently focusing implementation of the WRAPS strategies on atrazine impairments in selected sub-watersheds within the Little Arkansas drainage. The elevated atrazine levels are associated with agricultural nonpoint sources: there are no point source dischargers of atrazine in the subbasin. Key components of implementing the WRAPS for atrazine include (1) an outreach/education program for the agricultural community (i.e., producers) on atrazine application rates, timing, alternatives, and label instructions; (2) an atrazine BMP program that includes BMP demonstration sites and on-farm visits by KSU extension staff to promote voluntary atrazine BMPs; and (3) incentive payments to producers that sign up and employ the voluntary BMPs. Based on the schedule for implementing the proposed controls, KDHE expects the atrazine water quality target will be achieved by 2016. Therefore, KDHE has deferred TMDL development on these waters until that time in order to assess the success of this 4b demonstration approach.

This paper presents KDHE's demonstration for assigning these waters to Category 4b according to EPA's Category 4b guidance, lessons learned in developing the restoration strategy, and potential challenges for maintaining these waters in Category 4b for future 303(d) reporting cycles.
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Keywords: BMP; Category 4b; TMDL; WRAPS; alternative; atrazine; impairment; nonpoint source

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2009

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