U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  507 FW 5                                     
Water Quality Standards

FWM#: 173 (new)
Date: February 17, 1995
Series: Interagency Activities
Part 507: Cooperation with Other Federal Agencies
Originating Office: Division of Environmental Contaminants

5.1 Purpose. This chapter promulgates U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) responsibilities and duties related to the development and review of water quality standards. Compliance with this chapter will help to ensure that the standards are protective of fish and wildlife resources and their habitats.

5.2 Policy. It is the policy of the Service to become actively involved in the early stages of developing water quality standards. In addition, the Service will advocate an ecosystem approach to the development and review of water quality standards. Because water quality standards are adopted on a State-by-State basis, the standards often fail to consider beneficial uses beyond the artificial (political) boundaries. By identifying all uses for an entire watershed, Service personnel can help ensure that the natural ecological potential of that watershed will be fully realized.

5.3 Scope. This chapter provides information on the overall administrative duties and responsibilities of the Service relative to development and review of water quality standards. It does not include technical guidance on how to review the standards or on how to conduct a section 7 consultation (formal or informal) when the standards have potential to affect threatened or endangered species or designated critical habitat.

5.4 Authorities.

A. Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, as amended (16 U.S.C. 661-667) (P.L. 89-721, 85-624, and 92-432).

B. Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1531-1544) (P.L. 93-205, 94-359, and 94-3527).

C. Bald Eagle Protection Act of 1940, as amended (16 U.S.C. 668-668d) (P.L. 92-535, and 87-884).

D. Migratory Bird Treaty Act, as amended (16 U.S.C. 701-711) (P.L. 93-300, 91-135, 86-732, 94-215, 91-393, 93-205,89-699, 90-205, 87-812, 93-509, 94-215, 92-214,85-585, and 84-273).

E. Marine Mammal Protection Act, as amended (16 U.S.C. 1361-1407) (P.L. 101-627, 100-711, 99-659, 98-364, 97-58,95-316, 94-265, and 92-522).

F. Federal Compliance with Pollution Control Standards, Executive Order 12088 of October 13, 1978 - (43 FR 47707, 3 CFR, 1978 Comp., p. 243).

G. Federal Water Pollution Control Act (Clean Air Act), 33 U.S.C 1251-1376; chapter 758; P.L. 845, June 30, 1948.

5.5 Background.

A. The great majority of natural resources under the jurisdiction of the Service are ultimately water-dependent; thus, adequate water quality and quantity are of paramount importance to trust resources. The Clean Water Act (CWA) is a valuable tool to the Service with its goal of "restoring and maintaining the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the Nation's waters." Specifically, section 303 of the CWA requires States to develop water quality standards which consist of designated beneficial uses of waterways (e.g., protection and propagation of fish, shellfish, and wildlife), criteria which will ensure the protection of the designated uses, and an anti-degradation policy that protects existing uses and high water quality. Section 303 of the CWA also requires States to formally review existing standards triennially. State standards are submitted the EPA approval.

B. From an operational standpoint, water quality standards are a valuable tool to the Service in fulfilling of its conservation mission. For example, Service field offices review municipal and industrial effluent discharge permits. The conditions set forth in these permits are based largely on water quality standards (CWA section 402) that are revised once every 3 years. The level of protection given to the receiving waters by these standards significantly affects the level of effort required by the Service in reviewing such permits, especially when threatened and endangered species, or designated critical habitat may be involved. The standards can also be used to influence the dredge and fill programs of the Corps of Engineers which must receive State water quality certification. Therefore, the importance of developing effective water quality standards to protect fish and wildlife resources cannot be overemphasized. The 1978 Memorandum of Agreement between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of the Interior recognizes the importance of the CWA to the Service mission. Key provisions of the 1978 Memorandum of Agreement are contained in this chapter.

5.6 Responsibilities.

A. The Assistant Director - Ecological Services will:

(1) Ensure that a consistent approach is used Servicewide for reviewing and commenting on water quality standards;

(2) Coordinate with the National Biological Survey to promote an active research and technical assistance program that will develop and enhance the Service's ability to review and comment on State adopted water quality standards and related National criteria;

(3) Ensure that information on waterborne contaminants and their effects on fish and wildlife resources is developed, maintained, and distributed to field and Regional Offices;

(4) Provide budget support to ensure that Ecological Services field offices have the necessary personnel and base funding to carry out this guidance;

(5) Provide the necessary funding to ensure that Ecological Services personnel receive appropriate training on the development and review of water quality standards and CWA section 304 national water quality criteria;

(6) Ensure advisement to EPA of any endangered and threatened species and designated critical habitats which may be affected by national criteria for water quality, aquatic life, sediment, and wildlife; and

(7) Ensure that any needed consultations on national criteria for water quality, aquatic life, sediment and wildlife are completed within the time frames required for adoption and approval by EPA.

(8) Ensure development of appropriate educational courses and training opportunities to implement the policy.

B. Assistant Directors, as appropriate, will ensure that any action which could affect the quality of waters passing adjacent to or below lands and facilities under Service jurisdiction complies with applicable federally promulgated or approved State water quality standards. Such compliance is required under Executive Order 12088, and includes minimizing the use of contaminants (e.g., pesticides, therapeutic agents, fertilizers), and consideration of both point and non-point discharges from Service lands.

C. The Division of Environmental Contaminants is responsible for:

(1) Developing implementation procedures for compliance with this chapter;

(2) Reviewing proposed Federal legislation dealing with the Clean Water Act and providing Service comments;

(3) Coordinating Service review and comment on national water quality standards regulations (40 CFR 131) as they are proposed by EPA;

(4) Coordinating the development, review and Service comment on CWA section 304 national water, sediment, aquatic life and wildlife criteria as they are proposed by the EPA;

(5) Facilitating inter-Regional field office coordination to identify and overcome inconsistencies in individual State water quality standards, and thereby helping ensure that the natural ecological potential of individual watersheds will be fully realized; and

(6) Designating a National Water Quality Coordinator for the Service to act as a central contact point on national and inter-Regional water quality standards- and criteria-related issues.

E. The Division of Endangered Species, in coordination with the Chief of the Division of Environmental Contaminants will:

(1) Develop procedural guidance necessary to conduct ESA section 7 consultations on proposed national water quality criteria and State water quality standards (See 730 FW 3); and

(2) If requested by EPA, initiate section 7 consultations to develop National water, sediment and wildlife quality criteria which will protect and enhance threatened or endangered species or designated critical habitat.

F. Regional Directors will:

(1) Ensure that a single unified Service response, consistent with national Service goals, is submitted to the appropriate EPA Regional Office when more than one field office is responsible for review and comment on a State's standards;

(2) Ensure that Regional personnel receive the training necessary to adequately participate in the development and review of water quality standards and national criteria; and

(3) Promote and facilitate intra-Regional field office coordination to identify and overcome inconsistencies between water quality standards of individual States, and thereby help ensure that the natural ecological potential of individual watersheds will be fully realized.

G. Project Leaders are responsible for providing Service participation and comments on the development and triennial review of State water quality standards which affect waters in their area of jurisdiction. Project Leaders will:

(1) Ensure that Environmental Contaminants personnel are assigned to the task of reviewing water quality standards, and that these specialists have the knowledge and expertise, via training or experience, in the field of ecology, limnology, and aquatic/wildlife toxicology necessary to perform the reviews;

(2) Ensure that performance plans and annual work activity guidance for assigned personnel reflect the duties and objectives of this chapter;

(3) Ensure that final comments on water quality standards are sent to the State and EPA Regional Office responsible for development and approval of the standards;

(4) When requested, assign Environmental Contaminants personnel to assist in the development and/or review of national sediment, aquatic life, wildlife, and water quality criteria;

(5) Coordinate the review of State water quality standards with Endangered Species personnel;

(6) Advise EPA and their non-Federal designee (i.e., the State) of any endangered and threatened species and designated critical habitats which may be affected by the water quality standards;

(7) If requested by EPA or their non-Federal designee, initiate consultations to ensure water quality standards are developed which will protect and enhance endangered and threatened species and designated critical habitats; and

(8) Complete any needed consultation on water quality standards early in the triennial review process so that States, Indian Tribes, and EPA can meet their deadlines for water quality standards adoption and approval.

H. Environmental Contaminants biologists assigned to review and comment on State water quality standards will:

(1) Maintain contacts with the appropriate State and EPA offices and initiate early coordination in the triennial review process, preferably during the early developmental stages prior to actual State adoption and Federal review of proposed standards;

(2) Coordinate with State fish, wildlife, and water quality regulatory agencies, the EPA, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), and local public and private organizations having an interest or jurisdiction over the affected waters;

(3) Advise EPA, NMFS, State, and area-wide water quality agencies of Service investigation and monitoring results, or other information which identifies pollution levels that are detrimental to fish, wildlife, or their habitat;

(4) Respond to requests for technical assistance and information from EPA, NMFS, and State agencies involved in the development or review of the water quality standards;

(5) Develop comments and recommendations aimed at producing standards that will fully protect the affected waters and their fish and wildlife resources;

(6) Promote the Service position using the full authority of the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act;

(7) Use only valid scientific data and literature to support Service comments and recommendations, and to maintain Service credibility in the review process; and

(8) Respond to requests for technical assistance and information from other Service facilities responsible for complying with State water quality standards.

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