A judge has given state and federal environmental agencies one year to plan the cleanup of 962 streams, rivers and lakes in Idaho.
The decision of U.S. District Court Judge William Dwyer was released Monday.
“This decision ensures that the state will develop a meaningful plan to control pollution or the federal government will do it for them,” said Mark Solomon of Moscow, vice president of the Idaho Conservation League.
In continuing to handle the challenge filed several years ago by the league and the Idaho Sporting Congress, Dwyer ruled that the state was moving at an unreasonably slow pace in complying with provisions of the Clean Water Act.
The suit was filed against the Environmental Protection Agency. The agency’s regional water quality chief couldn’t be reached for comment Monday afternoon.
It was just over a year ago that Dwyer ordered the EPA to require the state Division of Environmental Quality to come up with a complete inventory of degraded streams. The state had supplied a list of only a few dozen.
At that point, the Seattle-based judge pointed out that the state had taken action to clean up pollution in only two streams since the federal requirements were enacted in 1979. And in the past 13 months, only about two dozen of the 962 stream segments finally identified as degraded have been addressed.
At that rate, Dwyer said, it would take centuries for the state to comply with the Clean Water Act.
League spokesman Karl Brooks said the task is not as daunting as it appears. Pollution problems in many cases might be handled through a basin-wide plan that covers numerous stream segments, he said, rather than one at a time.
The lawsuit has been of particular interest to the timber industry, which disputes that all of the streams in question really are polluted. Loggingrelated sediment is one of many sources of water pollution in the state.
The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Associated Press Staff writer Julie Titone contributed to this report.