Conservationists won a major court ruling this fall in their two-decade-long battle with the state of Idaho and the Environmental Protection Agency to implement and enforce the Clean Water Act. In a sharply worded opinion, federal district judge William Dwyer, of northern spotted owl fame, chided the EPA and the state for failing to develop cleanup plans for 962 polluted rivers, streams and lakes.
More than a year ago, Dwyer
told the EPA and the state to set a schedule for developing
pollution standards for the degraded waterbodies. Known as Total
Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs), these standards determine how much
pollution can be allowed in a river on a given day without causing
further damage. Environmentalists see them as a way to protect fish
and wildlife habitat, while industry groups worry they will stymie
future development in many watersheds.
September, the EPA submitted a schedule that would have taken 25
years to implement and did not include all 962 waterbodies. Dwyer
found the schedule to be "arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of
discretion, and contrary to law ..." He gave the agency six months
to come up with a new schedule, and suggested that five years
should be plenty of time to develop standards.