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It Must Be A Duck

Spring 2011 Wild Fish Runs eNews - It Must be a Duck

Quilcene PipeYou know the old adage, “If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it must be a duck.”  The U.S. Congress established a formula in 1972 when it overhauled the Clean Water Act and required a permit for most discharges of wastewater.  The formula goes like this:  if you 1) discharge 2) pollutants into 3) navigable waters from 4) a “point source”, you need a permit.   Congress defined “point source” in the Act, and, as you might expect, things like “pipes” are included. 

The Quilcene National Fish Hatchery on the Olympic Peninsula discharges pollutants (nutrients, chemicals, bits of fish) into Big Quilcene River (a navigable water).  The pollutants enter Big Quilcene River through pipes and the fish ladder, which also qualifies as a “point source” under the Act’s definition.  Quack quack.  This place needs a valid permit.  It once had one, but it expired in 1979 and the government failed to issue another one.

One reason why the government was in no hurry is that they were claiming a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulation completely exempted smaller aquaculture facilities from the wastewater discharge permit program, pipes or no pipes.  We ended up in federal court because a regulation cannot trump the law.  After an adverse decision in District Court, we filed an appeal with the 9th Circuit almost immediately, and the government asked if we could possibly settle the case.  We did, and the result is what we wanted in the first place – that the Quilcene National Fish Hatchery operate with a valid wastewater discharge permit.  Now all the federal fish hatcheries in Washington have them.

Article by Mark Hersh, Water Quality Specialist, Wild Fish Conservancy


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