EPA Accepts Kentucky’s First TMDL Alternative

Gunpowder Creek TMDLIn February, Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) Region 4 accepted the Gunpowder Creek Watershed Plan and Supplement as the first Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Alternative plan for the state.  A TMDL Alternative is a restoration approach that details a plan and a set of actions pursued in the near-term designed to attain water quality standards.  The TMDL Alternative lowers the priority for TMDL development in anticipation of the plan addressing impairments and meeting water quality standards and removing the requirement for a TMDL to be developed.

The Gunpowder Creek Watershed Initiative developed a watershed plan for Gunpowder Creek in 2014.  The watershed plan was approved by E.P.A. in July of 2015.  The watershed plan identified both the sources of the pollution and targeted activities to reduce the pollutant loads from those sources.

The Kentucky Division of Water (the Division) collaborated with the Boone County Conservation District and Northern Kentucky Sanitation District 1 to develop a supplement to the existing watershed plan that would include the additional data needed for alternative status.

The supplement focused on bacteria levels in the water that make it unsafe for swimming or fishing.  It identified potential sources of bacteria and suggested targeted actions to address those sources.  The supplement also included an implementation table that includes how the land is being used, specific actions to take, key partners, funding sources and proposed implementation timeframes for improvement.

These tables are used as a tool to track the progress of the alternative and report those achievements.  You can keep up with the progress by visiting the Boone County Conservation District’s website.

Now that EPA has accepted the Gunpowder Creek TMDL Alternative, the Division is looking to other watersheds that have an approved watershed plan to weigh their acceptance as an alternative.  Stakeholders can contact their Basin Coordinator to determine if watershed plans in their area could be the next TMDL Alternative.

You can also learn about water quality in your area by visiting Kentucky’s Water Health Portal