WaterWatch Action Alert — Support the Powder River

Feb. 2, 2024

Located in northeastern Oregon, the Powder River cuts canyons of up to 500 feet into the surrounding Columbia plateau along its route to the Snake River, with 11 miles of its length protected under the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.

The Powder River also flows through a major agricultural region, with livestock ranches and fields of grains, oilseeds, dry beans, dry peas, melons, and potatoes. Because of the volume of agricultural operations, the flow of the Powder is high in contaminants and pollutants that can affect the river’s health cumulatively, and in bursts of toxicity.

To limit the amount of contaminants, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has undertaken a rulemaking process for a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), a legal mechanism that determines the maximum amount of pollutants the river may be able handle without risk to native species or recreational use.

Unfortunately, the agency is receiving considerable pushback against the TMDL process from interests that would prefer little, if any, restrictions on the amount of contaminants that would enter the river. Among other things, they are arguing the river should be protected for agricultural use only, and NOT for public recreation, fish and wildlife. That’s why we need your help now.

Contact the DEQ via this e-mail address: powdertmdl@deq.oregon.gov

The deadline to make a comment on the Department of Environmental Quality’s TMDL process is this Friday, Feb. 9th, at 4 p.m. It’s best to use your own words, but talking points can include:

  • The Powder River belongs to all Oregonians, not just those who use it to support their farming and ranching operations.
  • The Powder River should be clean enough for fishing, boating and swimming — and to support fish and wildlife, not just agricultural use.
  • Excess bacteria levels have been documented in the river basin for more than 20 years. Now is the time for DEQ to take action by adopting a plan to at least start to clean up the river and its tributaries.
  • Because the Powder River basin fails to meet water quality standards for bacteria, state and federal law require a plan to clean it up.

Please share this notice with friends and family, and share the message there’s more to the Powder River than unlimited use by polluters. As a Wild and Scenic River and a vital Oregon waterway, the Powder must remain clean and healthy for human recreation, and for native fish and species.

Thank you for your ongoing support! Visit this Oregon Department of Environmental Quality page for more, and get your comments and remarks in to the DEQ by 4 p.m. on Friday, Feb 9th. Many thanks!