Montana Code Annotated 2021



Part 3. Classification and Standards

Nondegradation Policy

75-5-303. Nondegradation policy. (1) Existing uses of state waters and the level of water quality necessary to protect those uses must be maintained and protected.

(2) Unless authorized by the department under subsection (3) or exempted from review under 75-5-317, the quality of high-quality waters must be maintained.

(3) The department may not authorize degradation of high-quality waters unless it has been affirmatively demonstrated by a preponderance of evidence to the department that:

(a) degradation is necessary because there are no economically, environmentally, and technologically feasible modifications to the proposed project that would result in no degradation;

(b) the proposed project will result in important economic or social development and that the benefit of the development exceeds the costs to society of allowing degradation of high-quality waters;

(c) existing and anticipated use of state waters will be fully protected; and

(d) the least degrading water quality protection practices determined by the department to be economically, environmentally, and technologically feasible will be fully implemented by the applicant prior to and during the proposed activity.

(4) The department shall issue a preliminary decision either denying or authorizing degradation and shall provide public notice and a 30-day comment period prior to issuing a final decision. The department's preliminary and final decisions must include:

(a) a statement of the basis for the decision; and

(b) a detailed description of all conditions applied to any authorization to degrade state waters, including, when applicable, monitoring requirements, required water protection practices, reporting requirements, effluent limits, designation of the mixing zones, the limits of degradation authorized, and methods of determining compliance with the authorization for degradation.

(5) An interested person wishing to challenge a final department decision may request a hearing before the board within 30 days of the final department decision. The contested case procedures of Title 2, chapter 4, part 6, apply to a hearing under this section.

(6) Periodically, but not more often than every 5 years, the department may review authorizations to degrade state waters. Following the review, the department may, after timely notice and opportunity for hearing, modify the authorization if the department determines that an economically, environmentally, and technologically feasible modification to the development exists. The decision by the department to modify an authorization may be appealed to the board.

(7) The department may not issue an authorization to degrade state waters that are classified as outstanding resource waters.

(8) The department shall adopt rules to implement this section.

History: En. Sec. 6, Ch. 21, L. 1971; amd. Sec. 2, Ch. 506, L. 1973; amd. Sec. 62, Ch. 349, L. 1974; amd. Sec. 5, Ch. 455, L. 1975; amd. Sec. 3, Ch. 444, L. 1977; R.C.M. 1947, 69-4808.2(1)(c)(ii), (1)(c)(iii); amd. Sec. 3, Ch. 595, L. 1993; (7)En. Sec. 5, Ch. 595, L. 1993; amd. Sec. 2, Ch. 495, L. 1995; amd. Sec. 5, Ch. 501, L. 1995; amd. Sec. 36, Ch. 324, L. 2021.