Water Quality Permits


Like many states, Oregon faces numerous challenges in implementing the Clean Water Act including addressing a backlog of administratively extended National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits. For over 15 years DEQ has worked to improve its permitting program -- from engaging a Blue Ribbon Committee, to convening internal work teams, to undergoing an independent audit and various quality improvement efforts.
An independent consultant DEQ hired at the direction of the Oregon Legislature made a number of recommendations in December 2016 to help improve the permitting program. DEQ is committed to implementing the recommendations of the consultant’s report. Resolving the backlog will require coordinating closely with multiple parts of the water quality program and with stakeholders and legislators.
DEQ is first focusing on developing tools that will allow permit writers to issue permits and renewals more quickly, and to ensure those permits have consistent standards and are protective of human health and the environment.
DEQ’s goal is to build a sustainable program that can issue or renew 20 percent (70-75) of National Pollution Discharge Elimination System individual permits each year and a program in which 90 percent of such permits are current. 
The consultant’s report and other documents, including the Project Plan and Project Overview, can be found on the Water Quality Permitting Program Review Documents page.
​In 2015, the Oregon Legislature, concerned about the backlog in permit issuance, authorized DEQ to hire an outside consultant to evaluate the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permitting program. Goals of the program are to:
  • Issue permits that are environmentally relevant by regulating discharges so Oregon’s waters meet state water quality standards
  • Reissue permits before the existing permits expire
  • Reduce the number of administratively extended permits to less than 10 percent.
The Legislature also directed DEQ to submit a report by December 2016 on progress toward completing the evaluation, meeting the program metrics and implementing recommendations that come out of the consulting work.

DEQ retained MWH, an independent contractor with expertise in NPDES permitting programs, to evaluate DEQ’s program, make recommendations and propose an implementation plan to reduce the permits backlog.

Throughout 2016, DEQ worked with stakeholders to launch the project, gather input and develop an implementation plan.
​Over the coming months and years, DEQ will be implementing a number of key recommendations from the consultant’s report.
Some of the key steps will include:
  • Permit Readiness Review: A detailed analysis showing where permits are in the pipeline. The review will identify potential barriers such as missing information and regulatory challenges helping DEQ prioritize work to address the most common obstacles to issuing permits.
  • Value Stream Mapping: A review of processes involved in issuing permits to determine where improvements can be made.
  • Data bridging: Simplifying the flow of data essential to issuing permits by creating a system that streamlines the retrieval and packaging of data to expedite issuing permits.
  • Technical Assistance Definition and Scope: A look at DEQ’s role in providing technical assistance.

Outreach and stakeholder engagement       

Upcoming stakeholder meetings 

no meetings have been scheduled

Stakeholder Workshop 1— Situation Assessment Review
Friday, May 6, 2016
Meeting Materials:
Agenda, Meeting Workbook, Presentation 1, Presentation 2, Meeting Notes, Mindjet Map

Stakeholder Workshop 2— Recommendations
Monday, September 19, 2016
Meeting Materials:
Stakeholder Workshop 3— Implementation Plan
Friday, October 28, 2016
Meeting Materials:
Meeting Audio: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8