GAO Calls for Greater Oversight of CWA Section 319 Program

ASDWA’s colleagues at the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS) published an analysis of the recent GAO report on nonpoint source pollution and the manner in which the CWA §319 program is being implemented. The ECOS analysis was published in the July 6 edition of ECOSWire and is reprinted below. The highlights include recommendations for both EPA and USDA

“The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released on July 2 “Nonpoint Source Water Pollution: Greater Oversight and Additional Data Needed for Key EPA Water Program,” which focuses on the Section 319 program of the Clean Water Act.

GAO examined (1) states’ experiences in funding projects that address nonpoint source pollution, (2) the extent to which U.S. EPA oversees the section 319 program and measures its effectiveness, and (3) the extent to which key agricultural programs complement EPA efforts to control such pollution. GAO surveyed project managers, reviewed information from EPA’s 10 regional offices on oversight of state programs, and analyzed U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data.

Highlights of the report follow.

Recommendations for EPA:

  1. Provide guidance to EPA Regions on oversight, e.g., updating State NPS Plans, review feasibility of 319-funded projects.
  2. Review/revise program measures to reflect (1) overall health of targeted water bodies, i.e. biocriteria, and (2) focus on protecting high quality water bodies.

Recommendation for USDA:

  1. Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to obtain information on implementation of mitigation measures for NRCS-funded conservation practices that may negatively affect water quality, and ensure water quality protection.

EPA will address GAO’s recommendations as follows:

  1. Guidance to EPA Regions on Oversight:
    1. Priority Goal: 50% of states to revise NPS programs by end of FY2013; provide guidance to states/Regions on state NPS program revisions.
    2. Satisfactory Progress Determination guidance for FY13.
    3. Based on GAO findings, we plan to solicit best practices for 319 project selection.
  2. Review 319 Program Measures:
    1. Develop incremental measures of progress to track improvements short of de-listing in impaired waters.
    2. Consider ways to measure the benefits of protecting unimpaired waters; place more emphasis on protection in revised 319 guidelines.

The report and related information are available via the links below.

Greater Oversight and Additional Data Needed for Key EPA Water Program GAO Report # GAO-12-335

Greater Oversight and Additional Data Needed for Key EPA Water Program, Survey of Section 319 Project Managers (GAO-12-377SP, May 2012), an E-supplement to GAO-12-335 GAO Report #GAO-12-377SP”