The Clean Water Act and Best Management Practices
In 1972, in response to growing public concern about serious and widespread water pollution, Congress passed the Clean Water Act to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation's waters. Under the Act, State and federal agencies cooperate to control pollution by setting water quality standards and providing for control of pollution at its source. The Act is mainly administered by EPA, with many of the provisions delegated to the States and Tribes for implementation. The Act makes it unlawful to discharge a pollutant from a point source into waters without a permit from EPA or an authorized State or Tribe. Nonpoint pollution sources are addressed by the States and Tribes through area-wide management planning processes and voluntary incentive-based programs; some states have regulatory programs that may address nonpoint source pollution. Because nonpoint source pollution causes approximately 60% of water quality impairments, Congress amended the Clean Water Act in 1987 to establish the Nonpoint Source Pollution Management Program under Section 319. The program provides States and Tribes with grants to implement controls described in their approved nonpoint source pollution management programs.
Traditional end-of-pipe pollution control methods are not appropriate for controlling the type of nonpoint source pollution that may come from timber harvest. For example, forestry activities are dispersed over large areas and affected by natural variables such as weather, channel morphology, or geology and soil characteristics of the watershed, making it difficult to separate the impacts of timber harvest from these natural variables. As an alternative, the concept of land management as a control tool emerged. This concept relies upon the use of best management practices, or BMPs. Conscientious use of BMPs includes monitoring to determine if the BMPs are being properly implemented and are achieving the desired effect. Achievement of water quality goals may require modifications in the BMPs originally selected for the forestry activities.