Water Quality Task Force Meeting
June 15-16, 2011
Shannon Lotthammer (t)
Peg Donnelly (t)(1)
Brian Thompson (t)(1)
Chris Yoder (1)
Midwest Biodiversity Institute
Susan Heathcote (1)
(t) Joined the meeting by phone.
(1)Participated the first day only.
Call to Order and Introductions
The meeting of the UMRBA Water Quality Task Force (WQTF) was called to order on June 15, 2011 at 1:15 p.m. by Chair Gregg Good. Introductions by all participants followed.
604(b) Biological Assessment Project
The WQTF reviewed the outcomes of the June 14-15 work session of the Upper Mississippi River (UMR) Clean Water Act (CWA) Biological Assessment Implementation Guidance Document project. This was the last of three project work sessions. Good said the biological assessment project will inform the WQTF’s next project, the creation of a UMR CWA monitoring strategy.
Jim Baumann asked that the project’s stakeholder sessions be scheduled as soon as possible to facilitate participation, particularly by fisheries staff and other technical experts. Good suggested that these stakeholder sessions be held in conjunction with the next WQTF meeting. Dave Hokanson said that while holding the two sessions in conjunction with the WQTF meeting is an option, the WQTF meeting itself would likely need to be shortened as a result.
Barb Naramore said current plans call for one in-person and one web-based stakeholder meeting. She asked whether the WQTF would support an approach using two web-based meetings and no in-person meetings. Good said his preference is for at least one in-person meeting. Shannon Lotthammer observed that web sessions help facilitate participation and broader engagement.
Mike Coffey said diverse participation in the stakeholder webinars is likely, including both technical- and policy-focused individuals. He suggested accounting for this in structuring the session’s agenda. Susan Heathcote said a general stakeholder session could be held first followed by a more technically-focused session.
Chris Yoder said it will be important to provide project reports to participants in advance of the stakeholder session, giving ample time for their review of this documentation. Roy Smogor asked whether it is realistic to expect policy-makers to read through technical documentation. Dave Hokanson said the project’s scope anticipated engagement beyond technical staff, so providing a venue to engage policy-makers fits with the project’s original scope. He also acknowledged Baumann’s earlier comments, which point to the need for further conversations with technical staff.
Hokanson said potential format options for the stakeholder sessions include: 1) separate sessions for technical and policy discussions and 2) two sessions with each split into technical and policy segments. Smogor said any policy-focused session would need to be clear about how far the project has been able to advance biological assessment ideas for the UMR and what next steps are likely to be.
Good recommended that one stakeholder meeting be a web conference, with a portion of the session dedicated to technical issues and a portion dedicated to policy discussions. He said the other stakeholder meeting should be in person, in conjunction with the next WQTF meeting.
WQTF Chair Transition
Good said he has served as
WQTF Chair for two years and, per earlier WQTF decisions, the position should
now rotate to another state. He noted
that if the states’ rotation is followed, John Olson of
Aquatic Life Designated Uses Project
Hokanson summarized the status of the aquatic life designated uses (ALDU) project. The project’s report is being reviewed by UMR natural resource managers and scientists through July 1, 2011. He added that the version under review includes some minor modifications from the previous version including: 1) a revised executive summary, 2) discussion regarding the potential need for future refinement of lateral areas, 3) additional biological data, and 4) a number of language changes to address comments made by John Olson and John Sullivan. Hokanson said comments received so far from natural resource managers and scientists have been generally positive. He said anticipated next steps are to address the review comments and present the report to the UMRBA Board for approval in August 2011.
Good asked whether the ALDU report should explicitly address next steps and priorities, including a likely focus on the UMR main channel. Hokanson replied that, in previous WQTF discussions, there had been preference for spelling out next steps/priorities in a separate document. Peg Donnelly concurred that a separate document for this purpose would make sense.
Hokanson asked the WQTF whether they thought the report recommendations, particularly in regard to the classification structure, would likely result in changes to state water quality standards in the near term. Good replied that standards incorporation seemed a ways off, but that the report recommendations could be used in the near term to help improve UMR assessments.
Baumann said report
recommendations could be integrated into
Sullivan asked the WQTF members whether they saw the classification recommendations as potentially applicable to other large rivers beyond the UMR. He added that it may make sense to consider whether this approach is scalable to other rivers. Baumann agreed, noting that this question is likely to be raised for other rivers, so the WQTF may want to consider any opinion it would like to offer in this regard.
Donnelly asked whether the WQTF would prefer that the report use of USACE EMP Long Term Resource Monitoring (LTRM) data for the last five years (2006-2010), rather than the report’s current data set, which spans the years of 1994 to 2008. She offered that the more recent, five-year set of data would be both consistent with how states typically look at data for CWA purposes and would allow the data align better with the most recent (2008) LTRMP Status and Trends Report. Donnelly said the newer LTRM data could be substituted for the data summary in Appendix C of the report. Hokanson noted that several figures in the report would need to be changed should a new data set be used.
Short said inclusion of the new data is a good idea, but only if it does not create a significant amount of additional work. Good commented that, if the purpose of the report is to look at classification choices among strata, then the longer data set is probably better. However, since the report is not an assessment, it is not as critical to have the most recent data as it is to have the longer historical perspective.
Sullivan asked Donnelly whether the newer LTRM data is likely to change any of the report’s findings or conclusions. Donnelly replied that, while she has not run any new range analyses yet, it is likely that some additional nutrient excursions would be observed. Baumann said it appears unlikely that the new data would change the primary conclusions of the report. Donnelly concurred, but said cluster analyses could be re-run to determine if there were any differences observed. Hokanson noted that, without Donnelly or Nat Kale working for UMRBA any longer, it is very unlikely that cluster analyses could be re-run.
Sullivan suggested the newer information be provided as an addendum. Baumann said the newer LTRM data would likely be helpful going forward, but does not seem necessary to complete the report. As such, he concurred with Sullivan’s suggestion to create an addendum to the report, noting that this option would not require re-doing report text and figures. The WQTF agreed that, if this data were to be added, it should be done via an addendum.
Hokanson thanked Donnelly for her work on the report and the project overall.
US EPA and state representatives each gave an update on nutrient efforts and issues for their states/agencies.
Brain Thompson said US EPA’s November 2010 criteria development document remains the most current resource to aid states in nutrient criteria efforts. US EPA’s position regarding numeric nutrient criteria has remained essentially constant, in that US EPA wants states to develop numeric criteria for nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P). If response variables are used, Thompson said US EPA wants to see these used in conjunction with N and P criteria (i.e., the expectation is that numeric N and P criteria are established, at minimum, whether or not response variables are used).
Thompson also highlighted the March 2011 “nutrient framework” memo from US EPA Acting Assistant Administrator for Water Nancy Stoner. He described the framework as a broad approach for the states to take as they also develop nutrient criteria. Thompson emphasized that, while following the framework in its entirety is voluntary for states, the development of numeric nutrient criteria is not optional. He said US EPA will be reaching out to states regarding the nutrient framework, though he was not sure whether this has happened yet in Region 5.
Baumann asked how US EPA sees the framework matching up with statewide nutrient development strategies under the Hypoxia Action Plan, and whether this would result in a single plan or two plans. Thompson said this issue has been raised, but he is not aware of how US EPA Headquarters is planning to address it. He said he would pass this question along to his counterparts at Headquarters.
Good asked Thompson if he was
involved in US EPA’s response to the 2008 petition from NGOs requesting numeric
nutrient criteria nationwide and TMDLs for the
Good said Illinois EPA held
meetings with stakeholders in January, March, and May to follow up on
Good noted that US EPA Region
5 is also seeking to have a permit limit for phosphorus established for the
Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD). He said some offensive condition violations
have been observed more than 100 miles downstream of MWRD’s discharge, and that
US EPA is interested in determining the relative contribution of MWRD to these
impairments. He said the role of MWRD
in nutrient loading is a significant issue in
Tom Wilton said
Smogor asked whether
Baumann reported that
In regard to nitrogen, Baumann
said previous studies have not found consistent relationships between nitrogen
levels and adverse effects. He reported
Baumann asked Bouchard if
Good asked Bouchard to
Good asked whether
Baumann asked if
Short asked Bouchard whether
In response to a question
from Sullivan, Bouchard said
Nutrient-Focused Cross-Programmatic Workshops
Hokanson reminded the WQTF of
the general scope of the workshops, which are part of UMRBA’s CWA 604(b)-funded
project. He said there will be two
workshops, held in different geographic locations, with the agenda of the
workshops being similar. Hokanson said a
northern workshop will focus on
Short asked if there will be a broad invitation to the workshops or a more targeted invitation. Naramore replied that this is one of the areas where input from the WQTF is helpful. She continued, saying that input on the goals, agenda, and structure of the workshops from the WQTF will also be quite valuable. Olson said the key questions noted in the handout are indeed the pertinent issues, but added that many of these go far beyond the UMR in their scope and applicability. Short said if the scope goes beyond the UMR-specific issues, the workshops may become unmanageable.
The WQTF agreed to consider the workshops further in the next day’s discussions. The WQTF meeting adjourned for the day at 5:00 p.m.
Nutrient-Focused Cross-Programmatic Workshops (continued)
Hokanson began the meeting’s second day by presenting a recalibrated approach to the cross-programmatic, nutrient-focused workshops discussed the previous day. He said this revised approach reflected the discussions of the WQTF during the previous day’s meeting, as well as subsequent WQTF discussions over dinner the previous evening. Hokanson highlighted the major elements of the revised approach as follows:
Good suggested that information from the UMRBA’s nutrient report be utilized during a “what do we know” section of the discussion. Hokanson agreed that this would seem to be a good fit. Baumann said a water quality standards discussion could also potentially address drinking water issues. He added that discussion of on-farm agricultural conservation practices should address targeting and drainage water management. Baumann also said point source contributions and reduction efforts should be part of the discussion, as it is important to address both point and nonpoint source issues.
Short said one unique issue for the WQTF to emphasize is consistent nutrient-related UMR water quality standards and suggested this as a topic for the workshops. He added that the workshops would provide a forum to expose others to the benefits of consistent standards and the challenges in reaching consistency. Good noted that US EPA’s upcoming response to the NGO petition may also inform how the workshop is structured.
Smogor emphasized that
actions to address nutrients can be both regulatory and non-regulatory, so the
workshops should address both approaches.
Baumann agreed, adding that there are approaches which include both
elements. Olson said some farm groups
are quite opposed to numeric standards and see the
Sullivan suggested that one workshop topic could be success stories in nonpoint source control programs. Smogor suggested that a discussion of effluent controls would also be appropriate, as this is where many gains have been made in nutrient reduction. Baumann agreed with the importance of effluent controls, but noted that time constraints may mean that the workshop’s focus remains more on ambient water quality standards.
Mike Coffey suggested that the findings and recommendations in the UMR nutrient report would provide a strong starting point for discussion and then participants could react to these ideas and offer suggestions of their own. Lotthammer concurred with Coffey’s suggestion, adding that a starting point for discussion would be to find areas of common agreement.
Baumann said common themes seem to be a focus on the UMR and an emphasis on water quality standards. Lotthammer said she is concerned about an exclusive focus on water quality standards, as the states are at different places in this regard and there may be other areas where collaborative efforts may be more promising. Baumann replied that a broader focus would likely require a longer commitment of time than the one-day format.
Coffey suggested forming a planning committee, involving the agricultural sector, to further scope the workshops. Baumann said the solutions for the mainstem UMR are likely to be similar to solutions for the tributaries, except that the mainstem may require an increased focus on nitrogen.
Good said the group should consider how necessary the workshops are and what would happen if they were not held. He asked Naramore and Hokanson whether, from a staff perspective, it is important to proceed with the workshops. Naramore responded that if the workshops can be reasonably scoped and are seen as valuable by the states, then it still makes sense to hold them. Good noted that an essential piece of the workshop scope would be to allow plenty of time for open discussion.
Short commented that it is easy for nutrient discussions to end up going in many directions and for the purposes of this workshop it may be focus on the education and information sharing component and emphasize issues that are unique to the UMR. As such, he suggested that the workshops be more informative in nature than discussion-focused. Baumann asked whether a more narrow focus might change the invitation list for the workshop. Short replied that a broad and diverse list of invitees would still be appropriate, and that individuals will self-select whether or not they wish to participate.
Smogor suggested that the workshop may be a first step, with other workshops potentially to follow. He added that the focus of the upcoming workshops could include presentations on “here’s what we know and here’s what we are doing” and then allowing participants to react to this information. Baumann concurred, stating that, at minimum, there is value in the states presenting their current efforts.
Short said one additional consideration for the workshops is US EPA’s upcoming response to a petition from environmental groups regarding nutrient criteria and TMDLs. He said US EPA’s response is supposed to be made by June 30, 2011.
UMR CWA Monitoring Strategy Project
Goals and Objectives of Monitoring Strategy
Good noted that the three
major current WQTF projects –nutrients, aquatic life designated uses, and
biological assessment – all point to the need for a UMR CWA monitoring
strategy. He said this is the context in
which funding under the
Good suggested that the ten elements recommended by US EPA for state monitoring assessment programs could serve as a guide for the UMR CWA monitoring strategy project. He noted that an excerpt from US EPA’s 2003 document is included meeting packet and describes these elements as follows:
§ Monitoring Program Strategy
§ Monitoring Objectives
§ Monitoring Design
§ Core and Supplemental Water Quality Indicators
§ Quality Assurance
§ Data Management
§ Data Analysis/Assessment
§ Programmatic Evaluation
and Infrastructure Planning
Good said Illinois EPA’s 2007-2012 strategy followed
the ten elements, adding that
Lotthammer said Minnesota PCA’s strategy followed the ten elements and is a ten-year strategy. She added that the strategy is currently undergoing an update and will focus on probabilistic, watershed-based monitoring. She said the strategy does not specifically address the UMR, but that a large rivers strategy would be developed later, with Minnesota PCA working in collaboration with Minnesota DNR and Wisconsin DNR.
Sullivan said he feels the time is right to move forward in developing a UMR CWA monitoring strategy. He said this could be done via the WQTF or, alternatively by gathering together state monitoring staff to develop a strategy. Baumann suggested the effort be done via the WQTF, and bring in monitoring staff as well. Hokanson said one piece for the WQTF to consider is the scope and goals of the monitoring strategy, and then any specific design would then fall in line with the scope and goals.
Good said his assumptions regarding a monitoring strategy are as follows:
§ It follows the US EPA ten recommended elements.
§ It provides for 305(b) assessment as primary goal.
§ It addresses all four major UMR designated uses (aquatic life, drinking water, primary contact recreation, and drinking water).
§ It allows for the detection of trends over time.
Smogor said ORSANCO’s approach matches the goals and objective he sees for the UMR, and that this potentially provides a closer starting point for a strategy than either EMAP-GRE or EMP- LTRM.
Good said it is important that the WQTF nail down the goals of the monitoring strategy, then look at implementation issues. He added that one goal of the monitoring strategy should be a unified UMR CWA assessment.
Smogor asked whether the WQTF’s intent is to design an ideal monitoring strategy or to be constrained by resource limitations at the outset. Good replied that, in his opinion, the WQTF is “starting from scratch” and should therefore scope how, ideally, monitoring and assessment should be done, at least initially.
Short said the project should include a review of what the states are currently doing in terms of monitoring and assessment. Good asked if the Upper Mississippi River Conservation Committee (UMRCC) might be able to assist the WQTF in this effort. Sullivan replied that members of the UMRCC-Water Quality Tech Section (WQTS) would likely be interested in providing technical input to the strategy. Baumann suggested that the project’s contractor discuss the project with the UMRCC-WQTS and other key groups. Short said the monitoring strategy discussion should draw out the distinctions between the EMP-LTRM program provides and the states’ CWA needs.
Good asked the group if the strategy should be primarily for 305(b) assessment or whether, for example, 303(d) listing would be derived from the monitoring results. Olson and Smogor said they would like to see the monitoring strategy used to support both 305(b) and 303(d) processes.
Good then asked the WQTF members if the monitoring
strategy should address all four of the major designated uses. Baumann said the strategy should address all
the major uses, but added that
Hokanson asked the WQTF whether their states design their monitoring strategies to assess all designated uses. The WQTF members replied that, in general, state monitoring strategies are designed to address all uses though there may be less emphasis on certain uses.
Good asked the WQTF whether the 13 minimum interstate assessment reaches are a framework from which the monitoring should be built. Smogor responded that the monitoring strategy project should explore this question further, to determine what the appropriate base of spatial scale should be. Naramore agreed that spatial scale should be investigated, but advised that the 13 reaches are a helpful starting point for the monitoring strategy work.
Good asked whether the strategy should address chemical, physical, and biological parameters. The WQTF responded that this should be the case, though some parameters, such as a physical habitat index, may need to be integrated later.
Good asked whether the strategy should attempt to address all the “boxes” recommended for a classification structure in the aquatic life use report. Olson said the strategy should address all of these. Short concurred that the strategy’s goals could include addressing all of the classes, but that it may not be possible to create a specific monitoring plan for each of the “boxes.” Sullivan said it is likely that choices will have to be made in terms of which classes to prioritize for monitoring.
Good asked whether the strategy should also seek to identify trends. Lotthammer said trends should definitely be discussed as part of strategy development. Smogor said any monitoring done over time will have some ability to detect trends. Baumann noted that the desire to detect trends can affect monitoring design.
Baumann emphasized that the monitoring strategy is being developed for the UMR mainstem, not the basin, and that this will be important to communicate. He said it is important that the strategy does not duplicate what is already addressed in current state monitoring strategies, and therefore some of the potential functions of a monitoring strategy (per Yoder’s slide regarding multiple management functions) may not be needed for the UMR strategy.
Short said that the multiple management functions should at minimum be considered in UMR strategy development, even if some of them are ultimately address only indirectly or through other existing strategies. Smogor said a goal will be to maximize the usefulness of the monitoring strategy. Lotthammer suggested that the 305(b) assessment function be emphasized, but that other uses of the monitoring strategy be discussed. Dkhili observed that all the comments so far simply show agreement that monitoring should support multiple management uses. Baumann agreed, but said some applications, such as criteria development, may require more monitoring than others, such as use attainment assessment.
Sullivan asked whether most states use a concept of
baseline monitoring plus additional monitoring.
Short said this is the case in
Process for Strategy Development
Hokanson said monitoring strategy development was currently envisioned as bearing some similarity to the biological assessment project, in that it would involve a contractor, UMRBA staff support, input from the WQTF and other technical experts (in this case, agency monitoring staff), a series of work sessions, and draft reports. The WQTF members suggested some possibilities regarding contractors who may have the skill set to support the project, emphasizing the need for the contractor to have specific CWA experience.
Short said it is important that the process include examining what is being done on other large rivers. Smogor agreed, saying that in reviewing other programs, it will be essential to not only look at the strategies per se, but how they have been implemented. Sullivan emphasized the importance of engaging monitoring experts within the states, suggesting that a consultant may not be needed, as these staff persons could likely assemble what is needed. Baumann agreed that this expertise is important, but that there is also a critical need for a contractor to act as a coordinator for logistics, writing, and other tasks. Good agreed, saying staff are limited in the amount of time they can dedicate to such a project, so a contractor will be essential.
Interstate 305(b) Assessment and 303(d) Impairment Listing Consultation
Hokanson displayed UMRBA’s current comparison of the states’ listings for the UMR. Each state provided comments on its assessment and listings as follows:
Good said US EPA has only
Good asked the WQTF members
if they send a copy of their assessment methodology to US EPA in advance of
submitting impairment listings. Dkhili
replied that this is the case for
Short said the information
contained in the chart presented by Hokanson correctly reflects the current
Baumann said submission of
Sullivan said Wisconsin DNR
is considering listing two reaches of the UMR for impairment due to elevated
phosphorus levels. He explained that
these listings would result from both an exceedance of
Hokanson asked Sullivan to
clarify whether interstate assessment reaches 2 through 4 (Chippewa River
through the Wisconsin River) have met
Baumann said he is not sure
what US EPA will say about this methodology but noted that
Olson explained that
Dkhili said the chart
displayed by Hokanson correctly reflects impairment listings in
Bouchard said Minnesota PCA
is still waiting to hear back from US EPA Region 5 regarding
Bouchard said changes in fish consumption advisories may affect the PFOS-related listing on the first interstate assessment reach. Sullivan asked whether information is available regarding the 3M Chemolite facility remediation taking place in Pool 2. Bouchard said he would follow up on this question and get back to Sullivan.
Other Listing Issues Discussion
Olson asked why some of the
Region 5 states seemed to be recently encountering difficulty in gaining
approval of their 303(d) lists. Good
said the issues Region 5 has raised with the
Good asked Olson whether
Other Agency and Organization Updates
Olson said several proposals have been made regarding potential reorganization affecting Iowa’s water programs, including a possible move of the 319 program, monitoring, listing, and TMDLs from Iowa DNR to Iowa’s Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. He said budget issues have caused these proposals to be tabled, at least temporarily, and it is unclear whether any of them will move forward.
Good said Illinois EPA
continues to be challenged with reductions.
He also said that much staff time is currently spent addressing nutrient
issues, including work to explore the application of
Bauman noted that Bruce Baker has retired, and Ken Johnson replaced him as the Water Division Administrator at Wisconsin DNR. He said Wisconsin DNR also faces staffing shortages, with an approximately 30% current vacancy rate of an already reduced number of authorized positions. Baumann also said there is an effort to make Wisconsin DNR a “charter agency” which may provide some flexibility in hiring.
Baumann said Wisconsin DNR staff soon be meeting with US EPA staff regarding nutrients and the March 2011 “nutrient framework” memo and the development of statewide nutrient reduction strategies in particular.
Dkhili said Missouri DNR has not been experiencing significant staffing issues and said the fees that help support the agency’s water programs were recently approved.
Approval of Previous Meeting Summary
Hokanson asked whether the WQTF had any changes or corrections to the January 2011 meeting summary. None were offered and the summary was considered final.
Confirming Priorities and Next Steps
Hokanson summarized the action items emerging from the WQTF meeting, noting the following in particular:
§ The aquatic life designated use report will be completed following the current round of review by UMR natural resource managers and scientists.
§ The biological assessment guidance will be revised per the discussions at the work session immediately preceding the WQTF meeting, and web-based stakeholder sessions will take place in August and/or September. The guidance document and summary flyer will be completed by September 30, 2011.
§ The nutrient report will be sent to the UMRBA Board and Water Quality Executive Committee for review. The report and summary flyer will be completed by September 30, 2011.
§ UMRBA staff will revise the cross-programmatic workshops agendas per the WQTF discussion, reducing the duration to one day. Staff will then proceed, in consultation with WQTF, in identifying speakers and making meeting arrangements.
§ UMRBA staff will develop a request for proposals (RFP) for work on the monitoring strategy project and identify candidate contractors to receive the RFP.
§ Staff will work on scheduling the next WQTF meeting, which will likely take place in October 2011.
With no further business, the meeting adjourned at noon on June 16.