[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 186 (Wednesday, September 25, 2013)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 58985-58986]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-23029]



18 CFR Part 410

Proposed Amendments to the Water Quality Regulations, Water Code 
and Comprehensive Plan To Update Water Quality Criteria for pH

AGENCY: Delaware River Basin Commission.

ACTION: Proposed rule; notice of public hearing.


SUMMARY: The Commission will hold a public hearing to receive comments 
on proposed amendments to the Commission's Water Quality Regulations, 
Water Code and Comprehensive Plan to update stream quality objectives 
(also called ``water quality criteria'') for pH in interstate tidal and 
non-tidal reaches of the main stem Delaware River.

DATES: The public hearing will be held at 2 p.m. on Thursday, October 
24, 2013. The hearing will continue until all those wishing to testify 
have had an opportunity to do so. Written comments will be accepted and 
must be received by 5 p.m. on Thursday, November 21, 2013. For more 
information regarding the procedures for the hearing and comments, see 
Supplementary Information.

ADDRESSES: The public hearing will be held in the Goddard Conference 
Room at the Commission's office building located at 25 State Police 
Drive, West Trenton, NJ. As Internet mapping tools are inaccurate for 
this location, please use the driving directions posted on the 
Commission's Web site.
    Oral Testimony and Written Comments: Persons wishing to testify at 
the hearing are asked to register in advance by phoning Paula Schmitt 
at 609-883-9500, ext. 224. Written comments may be submitted as 
follows: If by email, to [email protected]; if by fax, to 
Commission Secretary at 609-883-9522; if by U.S. Mail, to Commission 
Secretary, DRBC, P.O. Box 7360, West Trenton, NJ 08628-0360; and if by 
overnight mail, to Commission Secretary, DRBC, 25 State Police Drive, 
West Trenton, NJ 08628-0360. Comments also may be delivered by hand at 
any time during the Commission's regular office hours (Monday through 
Friday, 8:30 a.m. through 5 p.m. except on national holidays) until the 
close of the comment period at 5 p.m. on Thursday, November 21, 2013. 
In all cases, please include the commenter's name, address and 
affiliation, if any, in the comment document and ``pH Rulemaking'' in 
the subject line.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: The rule text and a report entitled 
``pH Criteria Revision Recommendations for Interstate Waters of the 
Delaware River Basin: Basis & Background Document'' (DRBC, March 2013) 
are available on the Commission's Web site, www.drbc.net. Hard copies 
of the latter document may be obtained for the price of postage by 
contacting Ms. Paula Schmitt at 609-883-9500, ext. 224. For questions 
about the technical basis for the rule, please contact Dr. Erik 
Silldorff at 609-883-9500 ext. 234. For queries about the rulemaking 
process, please contact Pamela Bush at 609-477-7203.

    Background. The Commission in 1967 assigned stream quality 
objectives (also called ``criteria'') for pH to all tidal and non-tidal 
interstate streams in the Delaware River Basin (``basin''). Since that 
time, scientists' understanding of natural fluctuations in freshwater 
and saltwater pH levels has grown. Likewise, the development and 
application of pH criteria have evolved, while the Commission's pH 
stream quality objectives have remained unchanged. Commission 
scientists in consultation with experts from DRBC member states and 
federal agencies have evaluated the pH criteria adopted by signatory 
states and recommended by federal agencies over the past four-and-a-
half decades. They have concluded that in order to minimize regulatory 
inconsistencies and better address natural pH cycles in the main stem 
Delaware River, two classes of revisions to the Commission's criteria 
for this shared interstate waterway should be considered. The first 
concerns the range of pH levels deemed to comprise the numeric standard 
within the tidal and non-tidal zones of the main stem and tidal 
portions of tributaries. The second concerns excursions outside the 
standard range that are attributable to natural conditions. The 
proposed revisions were unanimously endorsed by the Commission's Water 
Quality Advisory Committee (``WQAC'') in March 2009. The WQAC is a 
standing committee of stakeholders, including regulators, municipal and 
industrial dischargers, academicians and

[[Page 58986]]

environmental organizations that advises the Commission on technical 
matters relating to water quality within the basin.
    Proposed Change to Existing Criteria. The Commission's existing pH 
criteria applicable to the main stem are expressed as ranges. ``Between 
6.0 and 8.5'' is the range currently assigned to all freshwater (non-
tidal) zones of the main stem Delaware River--DRBC Water Quality Zones 
1A through 1E. In all tidal zones--DRBC Water Quality Zones 2 through 
6, which include the tidal main stem and tidal portions of its 
tributaries--the pH range currently in effect is ``between 6.5 and 
8.5''. The proposed amendments would make 6.5 the lower threshold of 
acceptable pH conditions for all water quality zones encompassing 
reaches of the main stem and tidal portions of its tributaries.
    Natural Conditions Clause. The proposed amendments would add a 
clause to the pH criteria recognizing natural deviations outside the 
6.5 to 8.5 pH range in the moderately acidic waters draining the 
Catskill Mountains and Pocono Plateau, the high-light and high-
productivity zones of the non-tidal main stem, and the acidic coastal 
plain tidewaters of the Delaware Estuary.
    Proposed Rule Text. In accordance with these proposed changes, the 
pH criteria for Water Quality Zones 1A through 1E (non-tidal main stem) 
and 2 through 6 (tidal main stem and tidal portions of tributaries) are 
proposed to be amended to read, ``Between 6.5 and 8.5 inclusive, unless 
outside this range due to natural conditions.'' The affected sections 
of the Commission's Water Quality Regulations consist of subsection C.3 
of each of sections 2.20.2 through 2.20.6, respectively, for Water 
Quality Zones 1A through 1E (non-tidal main stem); and sections 3.30.2 
through 3.30.6, respectively, for Water Quality Zones 2 through 6 
(tidal main stem and tidal portions of tributaries). It is further 
proposed to amend paragraph 410.1(c) of title 18 of the Code of Federal 
Regulations by replacing the date of incorporation by reference that 
appears there (currently, December 8, 2010), with the date on which the 
Commission adopts a final rule in response to this proposal.

    Dated: September 17, 2013.
Pamela M. Bush,
Commission Secretary.
[FR Doc. 2013-23029 Filed 9-24-13; 8:45 am]