Environmental groups Friends of the Wild Swan and Alliance for the Wild Rockies reached an agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Montana Dept. of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to develop clean up plans for impaired waters throughout the state.

The agreement stems from a court order that EPA and DEQ must develop Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs or clean-up plans) by 2012 for impaired waters that were listed in 1996. The EPA and DEQ found that utilizing a watershed scale approach was more efficient and comprehensive than a stream segment by stream segment approach. The watershed approach ensures that all water quality problems that may be contributing to impairment are adequately understood and helps to develop a TMDL that focuses on restoration of the ecological health of the entire watershed.

“This agreement allows EPA and DEQ to address water quality impairments using a watershed approach,” said Jason Gildea, TMDL Planner with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “It’s more efficient, allows for better science, and most importantly, will result in better protection for rivers and lakes throughout Montana.”

Under the new agreement, impaired waters that are bull trout critical habitat and other native trout habitat will have cleanup plans for 664 pollutants in 28 watersheds developed by 2014. This includes the Clark Fork, Flathead, Blackfoot, Bitterroot, Kootenai and other river basins in Montana.

The groups believe that this agreement will facilitate the recovery of bull trout and other native aquatic species.

“These clean up plans provide a roadmap for the future,” said Arlene Montgomery, Program Director of Friends of the Wild Swan. “Once the plans are developed then steps to implement them will ensure that our waters are cold and clean for future generations of people and fish.”