Montana’s New General Permit for Construction Stormwater

Montana DEQ is nearly finished updating its rules addressing the pollution impacts of construction sites on local creeks and streams. Last week we submitted preliminary comments on DEQ’s rough draft General Permit for Construction Stormwater.

What’s a Construction Stormwater General Permit?  Section 402 of the federal Clean Water Act requires that all construction sites on an acre or greater of land, individually smaller sites that are part of a greater scheme of development, obtain a pollution discharge permit (a MPDES permit). Montana DEQ issues MPDES permits, which are supposed to be written to ensure the receiving waters will support designated uses (like fishing, swimming, drinking, agriculture, etc) and, in turn, represent limits on pollution.

General Permits are issued on a regional or state basis for particular categories of activities. The general permit process eliminates individual review and allows certain activities to proceed with little or no delay, provided that the general or specific conditions for the general permit are met. For example, in Montana, many big construction operators with several projects will seek a General Stormwater permit instead of several individual permits.

The Issue:  Stormwater runoff is the one of the most significant sources of pollution impacting Montana’s waters. The cumulative impacts of stormwater pollution (both rural and urban based) are threatening the ability for our communities to have clean water that is swimmable, fishable, and drinkable. As growth and development accelerates in our river valleys and in headwater stretches, irresponsible construction practices, inadequate drainage infrastructure, poor planning, and flawed development policies degrade the health of local waterways.

What We’re Doing:  Our goal is to ensure Montana’s laws and regulations reflect best-available science and protect waterways to the maximum extent possible, and to then ensure the largest projects and actors comply with the law.  To achieve these goals we use a two-pronged approach: technical review and legal action to set proper standards at law, then public engagement, monitoring and inspection, and legal enforcement against egregious polluters.

This approach allows us to use multiple avenues to address the problem of stormwater pollution from a regulatory standards and site-specific levels, and from a forward looking perspective.

What You Can Do:  Waterkeeper needs your help fighting stormwater pollution in 3x ways!

  • Submit public comment: Once DEQ releases its official draft General Permit for public comment, we’ll share important talking points so you can tell DEQ to make necessary permit changes to protect local waterways from stormwater pollution.
  • Become a Member: Being a member allows us to (a) communicate directly with you about issues you care about, and (b) allows us to literally speak up on your behalf to decisionmakers, whether fighting bad legislation, improving local land use ordinances, or challenging an illegal permit in the courts. Click here to join us today!
  • Join a Local River Watch:  There are 13 major rivers and 25,000 sq miles in Montana’s Upper Missouri River Basin. If you hike, camp, hunt, or float on or nearby any of these rivers, you can help us keep track of local conditions and signs of illegal pollution. Members that serve on a local River Watch are our local eyes and ears – join as a member and let us know you want to get involved!

We need your help to continue fighting back.

The water we drink, fish, and use is essential to our health and Montana’s way of life. No family should have to worry about safety when they turn on the tap, and no Montana river should run green with algal blooms.

Upper Missouri Waterkeeper needs folks who care about clean water and healthy Montana rivers to join us in protecting our waterways for today’s families and future generations – we can’t put up a fight without your help.  We must stand up for our rivers, now.

Your gift today will help Upper Missouri Waterkeeper fight efforts to destroy longstanding clean water protections, and to fight for our local rivers. We were founded to ensure that laws are enforced and health of communities are protected. We will not back down to industry and political pressures, and will not sit idly by while polluters attempt to water down pollution controls.

Working together we can speak with one powerful voice and act as one powerful force. Please help us fight for clean, safe water in Montana. Take action now. Join us today.