Are Oregon's waterways clogged with dairy manure, logging runoff and septic waste?

Or, does the state lead the way on protecting streams and rivers?

Both pictures were painted by residents submitting comments on a proposal to cut about $4 million per year in federal funding to Oregon's coastal nonpoint pollution control program.

The National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed disapproving Oregon's program because the state has continually fallen short of federal requirements.

Oregon officials say the state's rules are better than those required by the program.

Friday was the deadline to comment on the proposal. NOAA has received about 75 comments, said Joelle Gore, acting chief of the NOAA's Coastal Programs Division.

"This action is needed to awaken Oregon government officials to the reality of not protecting our environment," wrote Chuck Erickson, director of the Clam Diggers Association of Oregon. "Oregon has a long history of good ole boy politics that give a nod and a wink to those who pollute our waterways."

Other writers asked for the decision to be reversed.

"This makes little sense considering that Oregon has addressed nearly every issue raised by your agency and that Oregon's water quality and habitats have been improving steadily for the past 15 years," wrote Jason Young, of Eugene.

Three of those against the proposal acknowledged that Oregon falls short, but said taking away funding won't help things.

"Whether the damage comes from farmland runoff... logging, or other factors, it's key that we continue to have financial support for cleanup," wrote Susan Caney-Peterson. "Saying that because Oregon watershed conservation approaches are moving too slowly and thus should be dinged financially perhaps fails to recognize the relationship between funding and success."

Dick Pedersen, director of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, said he is disappointed in the proposed action.

"Oregon is a national leader in improving water quality and we are committed to achieving the very same environmental outcomes EPA and NOAA want to achieve: clean water and healthy fisheries," Pedersen said.

"Water quality trends across most of the state are positive, and Oregon is already successfully restoring salmon runs and maintaining coastal watershed health," he said.

So-called "nonpoint" sources of water pollution come from agriculture, logging and urban areas, rather than factory pipes.

They aren't regulated under the federal Clean Water Act, so the federal government offers incentive money to 34 coastal and Great Lakes states and territories that comply with certain criteria for addressing polluted runoff along their coasts.

Oregon and 10 other states have continued under "conditional" approval since the program began, but in 2009 a Portland environmental group sued the federal agencies, saying they were letting Oregon avoid compliance.

NOAA and EPA are scheduled to make a final decision by May 15. Loss of funding would begin June 1.

tloew@statesmanjournal.com, (503) 399-6779 or follow at Twitter.com/SJWatchdo

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