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Developing Constructive Partnerships with Dischargers: The Economic Benefits of Outreach

Richard S. Davis, Esq.

Director, Beveridge & Diamond, P.C., Washington, D.C.

Regulatory agencies continue to wrestle with the challenge of developing data sufficient to determine whether streams are impaired. While data from cost-effective broad-scale monitoring sometimes can be combined with information from other sources to suggest an answer, confirmation of a violation of numeric criteria often requires more intensive, site-specific monitoring. The need for site-specific data is even more pressing when evaluating compliance with narrative standards. Given today's budget realities, however, it is all but impossible to conduct such focused evaluations of every stream required to be characterized under Sections 305(b) and 303(d) of the Clean Water Act. As a result, marginally supported listing decisions often become the subject of administrative and judicial challenges by dischargers. Responding to these challenges saps agency resources needed to implement critical water quality protection programs.

Outreach to the discharger community well in advance of listing deadlines can play an important role in filling data gaps without draining agency coffers. Facing the prospect of having their receiving waters listed as impaired on the basis of scant or outdated available data, many discharges will elect to support additional sampling to better characterize current conditions in the stream. Focused sampling for specific substances or careful evaluation of a stream's compliance with narrative standards often demonstrate that a stream should not be listed and, thus, are more cost-effective for dischargers than are post-listing challenges. Eliciting discharger participation early in the listing process, while critical to tapping this important resource pool, has not been a focus of many state and tribal water quality managers. This presentation will offer examples of successes in securing private-sector support for critical monitoring efforts, and will explore the other benefits of forging an early partnership with the on-stream community.

Keywords: Water quality; monitoring; outreach; partnership; resources.

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