State Laws Not a Substitute for the Clean Water Act

  • Posted by Dawn Merritt

    New Report Finds Many Waters at Risk
    By Scott Kovarovics, IWLA Conservation Director

    In an August 2011 report (PDF link) that was just publicly released, the Environmental Law Institute (ELI) finds that 25 states do not have laws in place to protect streams, wetlands, and other waters if the federal Clean Water Act does not apply to those waters. This finding, based on extensive review of thousands of specific local examples, demonstrates if the Clean Water Act does not protect critical waters, those waters are by no means guaranteed protection under state law.

    Opponents of restoring Clean Water Act protections to streams and wetlands frequently argue there’s no need to because – they contend – states provide a parallel level of protection. Although this may be the case in a handful of states (the ELI report identifies eight states that provide very comprehensive protection for freshwater wetlands), comparable state-level protections are the exception, not the norm. The report finds there “are entire regions of the country where none of the states” has established a permit system to protect wetlands. This list includes Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota, which form the heart of the U.S.prairie pothole region.

    This analysis also reaffirms that waters especially important to hunters, anglers, and others who enjoy outdoor recreation – including prairie potholes and headwater and intermittent streams –  are particularly at risk of being polluted or drained and filled without Clean Water Act protection.

    This report reinforces how important it is to restore Clean Water Act protections for the nation’s streams, wetlands, and other waters.

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