The Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) identified science-based policy analysis as a key administrative objective following a Federal review of Missouri's Water Quality Standards Program in 2000. U.S. EPA Region 7 selected the Environmental Resources Coalition (ERC) to administer an Ecological Water Resources and Assessment Project (EWRAP) grant to assist MDNR in developing a science-oriented approach. ERC selected Geosyntec to be the lead technical consultant for ERC and MDNR.
Geosyntec's Scope of Services
The EWRAP grant targeted development of several critical procedure documents supported by a 3-year intensive dissolved oxygen (DO) evaluation within state-designated reference streams.
- Tiered Aquatic Life Use Feasibility Evaluation - Geosyntec reviewed and summarized available state and federal guidance related to tiered aquatic life uses defined by the biological condition gradient. In coordination with ERC and key statewide stakeholder groups, we assisted state regulators in evaluating the feasibility of implementing the tiered aquatic life use framework for wadeable streams and rivers.
- Assessment of Ecoregional Dissolved Oxygen Regimes - Geosyntec collected over 150,000 DO, temperature, light, nutrient, chlorophyll, and stream level measurements over a 3-year period to characterize DO regimes within three selected biocriteria reference streams. We developed EPA-approved Quality Assurance Project Plans to guide data collection activities. In combination with nutrient, chlorophyll, and light data, Geosyntec modeled stream metabolism within study streams to identify sources and sinks yielding observed DO conditions.
- Development of Regional Dissolved Oxygen Criteria Procedures - In cooperation with regulatory staff, we synthesized available state and federal guidance documents to identify procedure elements and sections needed to successfully guide development of alternative dissolved oxygen criteria on a regional scale. Geosyntec is currently collaborating with state and federal project partners to author technical data collection and criteria calculation sections of the document.
- Development of Wasteload Allocation Procedures - We reviewed and synthesized available state and federal guidance documents, existing Total Maximum Daily Load evaluations, and surface water quality modeling studies to develop water quality-based wasteload allocation procedures for state permit writers. Geosyntec developed a dissolved oxygen model expert system to guide permit writers in selecting appropriate model inputs according to water body classification systems and physiogeographic provinces.
The comprehensive continuous dissolved oxygen dataset that Geosyntec collected definitively addressed on-going seasonal DO attainment disputes. As a result of the EWRAP grant and our contributions, the MDNR is moving forward with several new science-based policy documents. These documents and supporting data fulfill Federal requests that states develop transparent and repeatable methodologies to support implementation of key Clean Water Act mechanisms such as site-specific criteria, wasteload allocations, and tiered aquatic life uses.