Federal environmental agencies announced Thursday they may reject Oregon's approach to keeping coastal waterways clean.

It's the first time the feds have threatened to disapprove a state's coastal strategy and withhold federal funds.

John King is with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's coastal services center. He says states have to meet 56 different water quality measures.

"Oregon has met most of those. Areas where they still have issues, are related to forest practices, septic systems, and new development," King says.

Oregon officials disagree with the feds' proposal. They argue Oregon's efforts are working, and say threatening to pull federal funds would undermine improvement projects.

For years, Oregon has had "conditional approval." The new proposal stems partly from a lawsuit Nina Bell and the Northwest Environmental Advocates filed.

Bell hopes Oregon officials are starting to think like this. "'Jeez, the federal agencies really are serious about this, and we better get our act together'."

The next step is a three-month comment period, with a final decision in May.

This story originally appeared on Oregon Public Broadcasting.

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