Oregon DEQ extends comment period for Powder River Basin TMDL

By on Friday, February 9th, 2024 in More Top Stories Northeastern Oregon News

BAKER COUNTY — The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is extending the public comment period for proposed permanent changes to the Powder River Basin Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for bacteria into rule.

The DEQ extended the comment period to 4:00pm on March 8.

According to the DEQ, the TMLD proposal is designed to reduce bacteria in streams in the Powder River Basin, covering most of Baker County, and parts of Union, Wallowa, Grant, and Malheur counties.

According to the DEQ “The comment period was initiated in response to concerns raised by local officials and residents regarding potential restrictions that could adversely impact farms and ranches.” 

The DEQ also held a public hearing in Baker City last August to hear locals’ concerns.

On its website, the DEQ states that Many water bodies in the Powder River Basin do not meet water quality standards at certain times of the year for bacteria, dissolved oxygen, temperature, pH and sedimentation. DEQ establishes water quality standards to protect the health of waterways for beneficial uses, such as recreational activities or fish and wildlife habitat. Oregon is required to establish a Total Maximum Daily Load, or TMDL, for stream segments that do not meet water quality standards. The TMDL for each pollutant is determined through data collection and analysis to calculate the maximum amount of a pollutant that a waterbody can receive and still meet water quality standards.

A Total Maximum Daily Load is a plan required by the Clean Water Act of 1972, overseen by the DEQ, where streams exceeding federal standards for various contaminants are identified. The TMDL document specifies the contaminants, their likely sources, and outlines necessary pollutant reductions to meet federal limits, aiming to improve water quality and remove streams from the deficient list, often paired with a pollution reduction plan.

More information from the DEQ:

Public Comment

DEQ is asking for public comment on the proposed rule amendments. Anyone can submit comments and questions about this rulemaking. More information on this rulemaking, including the draft rules, TMDL and Water Quality Maintenance Plan can be found on the Powder River Basin TMDL Rulemaking Page.

How to comment: DEQ will accept comments by email, postal mail or written submitted at the open house. Anyone can submit comments and questions about this rulemaking.

  • Email: Send comments by email to: powderTMDL@deq.oregon.gov
  • Postal mail: Oregon DEQ, Attn: Alex Liverman/Watershed Management, 700 NE Multnomah Street, Suite 600, Portland, Oregon 97232-4100

DEQ will only consider comments on the proposed rules that DEQ receives by 4 p.m., on March 8, 2024.

Additional Information

Read Frequently Asked Questions about the Powder River Basin TMDL.

To view the notice and rulemaking documents and learn more about this rulemaking and how to submit comments, please see the rulemaking web page at: Powder River Basin TMDL.

If you did not receive this notice at your preferred email address and want to receive future email notices about this rulemaking, you may sign up at: GovDelivery.

You can also obtain more information about this rulemaking by contacting:

Vanessa Rose
Water Quality Permit Writer
Eastern Region Water Quality Permitting


L. Alexandra Liverman (she/her)
Watershed Program Analyst
Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
office: 503-229-5080
cell: 503-887-7746