Wetlands and CWA Programs Other Than §404

AuthorMargaret 'Peggy' Strand/Lowell Rothschild
Page 199
Chapter 8
Wetlands and CWA Programs Other Than §404
While the C orps ad ministers much of §404, EPA has sole federal authority to administer the
remainder of the CWA.1 Congress directed EPA to develop “comprehensive programs for pre-
venting, reducing, or eliminating the pollution of the navigable waters and groundwaters and
improving the sanitary condition of surface and underground waters.”2 Such comprehensive programs
are required to realize the Act’s lofty and oft-repeated objective “to restore and maintain t he chemica l,
physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters.3 Accordingly, EPA administers a number of CWA
programs, other than §404, that involve protection of wetlands a s part of its comprehensive approach to
attaining CWA goals. ese programs frequently play a role in the §404 permitting process.
I. Wetlands and Water Quality Standards
Section 303 of the CWA establishes the water quality program.4 is is a technically and legally complex
program that is only briey summariz ed here. Water quality standa rds consist of three parts: qualit y goals
for a water body established based on its uses, criteria to protect those uses, and provisions to protect water
quality from pollutants. Subject to EPA oversight and review, states have the initial and primary role in
setting water quality st andards.
Each state decides how to categorize its water bodies, including how to separate appropriate segments
of streams and rivers, and determine designated uses for those water body segments. Designated uses
include recreation, water supply, aquatic habitat, and agriculture. e st ate then sets water qua lity criteria
to protect the designated use. e water quality criteria may be numeric pollutant concentrations, narrative
requirements, or both. States must also have an antidegradation policy to maintain and protect existing
uses and high quality water bodies.5 Implementation of water quality standards—converting the criteria
into enforceable limits on pollution discharge—involves many technical matters, including low ows, vari-
ances, mixing zones, and other matters.
Once established, water quality standards are included as limitations or restrictions in discharge permits.
Numeric standa rds for particular pollutants may be expressed as total maximum daily loads (TMDLs),
which reect the total amount of a pollutant that a receiving water ca n accept while still meeting its water
quality standard. Once a TMDL has been established, permits establish discharge limitations based on an
allocation of the pollutant load among individual dischargers.
Water quality standards can be established for wetlands. In 1990, EPA issued a National Guidance,
Water Quality Standards for Wetlands, which is Appendix B to Chapter 2 —General Progra m Guidance
of the Water Quality Standards Handbook, December, 1983.6 is guidance provides advice on how states
5. See 40 C.F.R. §131.12 for federal antidegradation policy.
6. Available at http://www.epa.gov/owow/werlands/regs/quality.html.

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