As required by the Clean Water Act, the Department of Environmental Quality has just issued its draft “Integrated Report” on the state of water quality in the State of Idaho. The utter failure of Idaho to do necessary water quality monitoring is probably the most glaring finding.
According to the draft report, of 5747 distinct waterways in Idaho, 2108 have insufficient data to determine the threshhold question of whether Clean Water Act standards are being met. That corresponds to 33,523 miles of rivers and 186,677 acres of freshwater lakes that have insufficient monitoring data or any other information on which to determine what measures, if any, are needed to protect those waterways. The new report seems to show no improvement whatsoever from the 2008 report in which 37% of state waterways had not been assessed. Meanwhile, some 900 waterways — another 16,659 miles of rivers and 208,102 acres of freshwater lakes — are impaired but do not yet have a cleanup plan.
But that’s not all. What about the other half? The report indicates that 1,242 waterways are, in fact, impaired and need cleanup actions to restore water quality. In this category, there are 20,004 miles of rivers and 148,257 acres of freshwater lakes that have an approved TMDL cleanup plan. But very little in the way of TMDL implementation is evident.
We know that Idahoans care deeply about water quality. The failure of DEQ to accomplish the very basic minimum requirements of the Clean Water Act should be unacceptable. The legislature, which has zeroed the water monitoring budget for two consecutive years, needs to provide the resources to DEQ to do its work before the U.S. EPA, or a federal court, is forced to step in.