By Anna Tadio

In 2018, NEDC began working to designate various lakes and rivers in Oregon as Outstanding Resource Waters (ORWs). This designation protects waters with exceptionally high water quality from degradation. When bodies of water are designated as ORWs, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) further restricts pollution discharges into those waters. Outstanding Resource Waters are exceptionally clear, with unique ecological values, and incredible recreation and research opportunities. Oregon currently has only one ORW, the North Fork Smith River, so we decided to try and petition the ODEQ to designate more rivers and lakes to better protect their incredible water quality for future generations.

As a leader of the NEDC water group, I spearheaded two different groups of students to draft two separate petitions to designate bodies of water in Oregon as ORWs. We started with a spreadsheet of all the bodies of water in Oregon and compared each river, lake, or stream to a variety of factors that we obtained from the North Fork Smith River ORW petition. After careful research on water quality, wildlife, unique geologic features, current uses, and community support, we decided to submit a petition for Waldo Lake, the Gem of the Cascades. Waldo Lake is beloved by the people who use it for recreation. When we began to draft our petition we were very excited to learn that a group of concerned citizens had already worked to ban motorized boat use on Waldo Lake to safeguard its pristine water quality and protect it from further pollution.

We then worked to gain support for our petition from local environmental groups. I reached out to different nonprofits and we gained momentum. The Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club eagerly agreed to support our petition, along with Oregon Environmental Council, Oregon Wild, Cascadia Wildlands, and the Center for Biological Diversity. We submitted the petition to the Oregon DEQ. The DEQ was so enthusiastic about our ORW petition, that it not only supported it, but it added Crater Lake to the rulemaking! We are proud that a student-led petition inspired our government to further protect Oregon’s only National Park! As of now, both Crater Lake and Waldo Lake have been given a hearing to receive public testimony. I along with other concerned citizens gave testimony in support of the designations and it appears that DEQ is committed to officially designating Waldo Lake and Crater Lake as Outstanding Resource Waters. We should have a final rulemaking by November 2020!

While the Waldo Lake petition was pending at the DEQ, in 2019 I led a different group of 1L students to write an ORW petition for Bull Run River and Associated Wetlands. Bull Run River provides high quality drinking water to over 950,000 residents in the Portland metropolitan area. It is the primary source of drinking water for all of Portland which accounts for nearly 20% of all Oregonians. Although the watershed has many regulations that protect it, by designating Bull Run as an ORW this rule would further protect Portland’s water supply for future generations. We are eagerly awaiting DEQ’s decision to proceed with the rulemaking.

I am extremely proud of the work we do through NEDC to protect the environment. NEDC has given me hope during these past few years because this community of dedicated individuals has been working tirelessly to defend the planet from those who would exploit it. NEDC was the highlight of my law school experience and I look forward to helping from afar as new groups of NEDC students work to submit more Outstanding Resource Water petitions.