The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has decided stormwater runoff from logging roads should be considered water pollution – and need to have a federal permit before they're built.
The court concluded the groups building logging roads in Tillamook county had violated the Clean Water Act by not obtaining stormwater runoff permits from the Environmental Protection Agency. Stormwater permits are required for many other kinds of road-building and development, but until now haven't been required for logging roads on state forestland in Clatsop and Tillamook counties.
The court ruled the dirt and gravel discharges that rainwater flushes off the roads and into ditches, culverts, channels and, ultimately, forest streams and rivers are, indeed, coming from "point sources" as defined by the Clean Water Act.
Thus, they require a pollution discharge permit (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit, to be exact).
This could be a big deal for logging and forests in the Northwest – depending on how tricky it is to get a discharge permit.
Stay tuned for more discussion of this ruling's implications.