In December 2023, a diverse coalition of community members and organizations celebrated a decision by the Washington Department of Ecology (WDOE) to protect 958 river miles under the state’s first ever Outstanding Resource Water (ORW) designation. This decision will provide protections for segments of the Cascade, Green, and Napeequa Rivers.
Through authorizations in the Clean Water Act, state water quality management agencies, like the WDOE, can designate rivers as ORW. The designation prohibits any further degradation of a designated river by new pollution sources, with the exception of a handful of special cases for public safety. The process for designation does not require legislative approval. It relies on an administrative decision following an eligibility confirmation of nominations and a public comment period.
For over two years, WDOE solicited comments and feedback from interested community members, who voiced strong support for protection. As part of the new rule, WDOE will also expand Tribal consultation requirements for future regulatory decisions to include all Tribes in the state.