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Water Quality Permitting Program Review

NPDES Individual Permit Improvement Project

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.  


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.

Project improvement processes

​​Data bridging supports identification of the types of data necessary to write an NPDES individual permit in Oregon; catalog the locations of the data; and identify the means of acquiring the necessary data. This project will provide a foundation for a long-term data management strategy. 

​​Value maps identify areas of permit issuance where DEQ can increase efficiency.
​​​The Permit Readiness Review project is to evaluate administratively extended individual NPDES permits to determine what is needed to issue the permit.

Outreach and stakeholder engagement

​​​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:


Jeff Navarro
Water Quality Program Analyst