EPA and forest roads

The US Environmental Protection Agency has published its “Notice of Intent to Revise Stormwater Regulations to Specify That an NPDES Permit Is Not Required for Stormwater Discharges from Logging Roads and to Seek Comment on Approaches for Addressing Water Quality Impacts from Forest Road Discharges” (Federal Register May 23, 2012, pp. 30473-30481). Following is EPA’s summary of the notice.

“The EPA intends to expeditiously propose revisions to its Phase I stormwater regulations to specify that stormwater discharges from logging roads are not stormwater discharges ‘associated with industrial activity.’ This notice of intent is in response to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which found in Northwest Environmental Defense Center v. Brown that certain logging roads are stormwater point sources ‘associated with industrial activity.’ Additionally, EPA is seeking comment on approaches for addressing water quality impacts associated with discharges of stormwater from forest roads. Where appropriate best management practices (BMPs) are used, receiving waters can be protected and impacts can be minimized. If not properly managed, however, stormwater discharges from some forest roads can cause preventable impairments to water quality. EPA believes that stormwater discharges from forest roads should be evaluated under section 402(p)(6) of the Clean Water Act because the section allows for a broad range of flexible approaches that are well-suited to address the complexity of forest road ownership, management, and use.  Section 402(p) of the Clean Water Act allows EPA to consider a range of regulatory and non-regulatory approaches and determine which forest road discharges (if any) should be regulated under 402(p)(6). The EPA intends to study the water quality impacts of forest roads and existing federal, state, tribal, and voluntary programs designed to address them to determine if additional Agency action is necessary. The EPA will seek input again prior to taking additional action.”

NCASI is reviewing EPA’s Notice of Intent and will provide technical input to the agency’s road study as appropriate. A recent compilation of technical information relevant to EPA’s study can be found in NCASI Special Report 12-01 Assessing the Effectiveness of Contemporary Forest Best Management Practices (BMPs): Focus on Forest Roads. 

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