|Description of the Challenge… |
Why is it a priority?
At 1,214 miles in length, boasting a 260,000 square mile drainage basin, the Columbia River spans portions of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, Montana, and a substantial portion of British Columbia. The Columbia River Basin is comprised of ecosystems that are home to a diverse array of biologically significant plants and animals. The Basin is also a dynamic economic engine driving many industries vital to the Pacific Northwest, including sport and commercial fisheries, agriculture, transportation, recreation, and, with 55 hydropower dams, electrical power generation.
|Columbia River salmon and steelhead runs—once the largest on earth—are now a fraction of their original size. EPA studies and state monitoring programs have found significant levels of toxins in fish and the waters they inhabit, including dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT), PCBs, and dieldrin. EPA and its partners adopted a three-dimensional approach to the problem of toxins in the Columbia River system, emphasizing remediation, prevention, and protection efforts. Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Columbia Basin tribal governments, the Lower Columbia River Estuary Partnership, local governments, citizen groups, industry, and other federal agencies are actively engaged in efforts to remove contaminated sediments, bring back native anadromous fish, restore water quality, and preserve, protect, and restore habitat, as illustrated below:|
- Working locally with agriculture producers to reduce pesticide use through the Pesticide Stewardship Partnership,
- Providing an anonymous opportunity to collect banned toxics and pesticides,
- Implementing total maximum daily loads through sediment reductions and riparian restoration,
- Cleaning up the Portland Harbor Superfund site and PCB contamination in the Columbia River at Bradford Island,
- Restoring wetlands and habitats at Mirror Lake and Ridgefield through the Lower Columbia River Estuary Partnership with Targeted Watershed Program funding.
Goals and Objectives…
What are the desired long-term outcomes?
Our goal is to protect public health and the environment by:
- Reducing toxic loads in the Columbia River Basin
- Reducing toxics in fish that people eat.
|The Basin: A National EPA Priority|
|In EPA's 2006-2011 Strategic Plan, the Columbia River Basin was elevated to one of our Nation’s great water bodies, joining the Chesapeake Bay, Great Lakes, Gulf of Mexico, South Florida Ecosystem, Long Island Sound and Puget Sound. This plan is the Agency’s road map for future work efforts and provides a mechanism to measure progress in protecting human health and the natural environment. |
Strategic Plan Sub-objective 4.3.9:
Restore and Protect the Columbia River Basin. By 2011, prevent water pollution, and improve and protect water quality and ecosystems in the Columbia River Basin to reduce risks to human health and the environment.
Columbia Baseline Document (5 pp. 60K, About PDF)
- By 2011, protect, enhance, or restore 13,000 acres of wetland habitat and 3,000 acres of upland habitat in the Lower Columbia River watershed.
- By 2011, clean up 150 acres of known highly contaminated sediments.
- By 2011, demonstrate a 10 percent reduction in mean concentration of contaminants of concern found in water and fish tissue.
Learn more about the Columbia River Basin