The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded $3,080,000 to the Washington Department of Ecology to help protect human health and the environment through a Nonpoint Source Program Clean Water Act (Section 319) grant.
This grant is given to states to implement environmental programs that address nonpoint source pollution in surface and groundwater in order to meet and maintain water quality standards.
"Providing funds directly to Washington is an excellent example of EPA partnering with states to help address their unique and critical environmental challenges," said EPA Administrator Pruitt. "EPA is making investments like this grant to help empower states who know best how to protect resources, and grow their economy while solving real environmental problems in local communities."
Under this year’s program, a total of nine proposals were selected for funding. These proposals are planned to be funded when the Washington state Legislature passes a new two-year capital budget for the 2017-19 biennium, as these funds provide the critical match for the federal grants.
Nonpoint sources of pollution continue to be recognized as the nation's largest remaining cause of surface water quality impairments. Nonpoint source pollutants - pathogens, sediment, and nutrients cause the majority of damage to Washington’s lakes, rivers and streams. Non-point issues can also lead to warm water temperatures. Left unaddressed, warm waters can make crucial streams uninhabitable by cold-loving aquatic species like salmon and other native fish.
Non-point pollution grant funding can be just the “shot in the arm” that local projects need. For example:
Projects aided by this funding will restore hundreds of acres of wetlands and repair riparian vegetation along a wetlands easement negotiated by USDA and NRCS on a 950-acre property in the Lower Spokane River watershed.
Local restoration efforts in King County’s Stillwater Natural Area will get a boost from grant funds as volunteers work to address high water temperatures in local streams that are proving lethal for salmon and other native fish. The project will replace invasive weeds with native plants within a riparian buffer over 12 acres and nearly a third of a mile of Snoqualmie River streambank.
The Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group will use EPA grant funds to plant 25 acres of riparian buffer along the Skagit River. They will also construct nearly a mile of livestock exclusion fencing at five sites along 303(d) listed streams, and along Skagit River side channels that are harmed by livestock grazing and lack of shade.
Nonpoint source pollution encompasses a wide range of sources that are not always subject to federal or state regulation. These sources include agricultural runoff, unpermitted urban runoff, abandoned mine drainage, failing onsite disposal systems, and pollution caused by changes to natural stream channels.
Congress enacted Section 319 of the Clean Water Act in 1987, establishing a national program to control nonpoint sources of water pollution. Through Section 319, the EPA provides states, territories, and tribes with guidance and grant funding to implement their nonpoint source programs and to support local watershed projects to improve water quality. Collectively, this work has restored over 6,000 miles of streams and over 164,000 acres of lakes since 2006. Hundreds of additional projects are currently underway across the country.