The main objective of Assembly Bill 680/ Senate Bill 547 is to provide an additional phosphorus compliance option for point sources that can provide certainty for planning and implementation, avoid large capital and operating costs with advanced treatment and make real progress in reducing phosphorus from point and nonpoint sources.

The basic structure of the bill is to use a multi-discharger variance concept similar to that used in Wisconsin for chlorides. The key elements would be:

  1. A statewide finding on economic impact by the Department of Administration in consultation with DNR. The finding would be reviewed periodically;
  2. An opt-in provision for permittees if they certify that they cannot meet the WQBEL for phosphorus without a major facility upgrade;
  3. A requirement for interim limits similar to that used in adaptive management;
  4. A requirement for phosphorus reduction in nonpoint sources undertaken by the permittees (as described below); and
  5. The variance extends for four permit terms. At the end of the fourth permit term the WQBEL takes effect.

Permittees would be responsible for achieving reductions of phosphorus from nonpoint sources equal to the difference of their current actual discharge level and a target value of 0.2 mg/l. Such reductions could be achieved by any of the following:

  1. Payment of $50/pound to counties within the discharger’s basin to provide cost share dollars and staff for nonpoint implementation in accordance with Chapter NR 151;
  2. A project approved by DNR implemented by the permittee that results in a phosphorus reduction; or
  3. A project approved by DNR implemented by a third party that results in a phosphorus reduction.

This option does not preclude a permittee from using adaptive management or water quality trading. It is just another compliance option. Additionally, the bill proposes to extend the adaptive management timeline to twenty years to be consistent with the variance option.

An amendment has been offered which includes the following changes:
• Where a permittee is subject to an approved total maximum daily load, the target value for that permittee is set at the amount the permittee is allowed to discharge under the TMDL instead of 0.2 mg/l.
• More accountability for the counties regarding the use of the payments for cost share and non-point programs.

The bill has been passed by the Senate Committee on Government Operations, Public Works and Telecommunication. The Assembly Committee on Environment and Forestry held a hearing on the bill but has yet to schedule an executive session on the bill.

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