It's a Good Day for Clean Water! (3/25/14)

  • Posted by Dawn Merritt
    By IWLA Executive Director Scott Kovarovics.

    After years of delay, we have some very good news on the clean water front today. The Army Corps of Engineers and Environmental Protection Agency released a proposed rule (March 25, 2014) to amend their regulations implementing the Clean Water Act to begin restoring protections for small streams and wetlands nationwide.
    Restoring these protections has been a League priority for more than a decade – and this is the most significant step toward that goal during that time. Confusing Supreme Court decisions and deeply flawed administrative policies during the last Bush administration rolled back 30 years of protections that had been provided under the Clean Water Act, leaving small streams and wetlands especially vulnerable to pollution, degradation, and being drained and filled.
    While a proposed rule does not sound glamorous, it represents a very positive step forward. Based on the clear and well-established biological, chemical and physical connections between upstream and downstream waters, the proposal would restore Clean Water Act protections to the small streams that have lost protections as well as wetlands that are adjacent to other waters such as streams or rivers. The Clean Water Act protected these waters for nearly 30 years before the Supreme Court decisions, and this proposal simply restores protections for waters protected previously and where the science could not be clearer – or more elementary.
    On the other hand, so-called isolated waters, such as prairie pothole wetlands, do not receive the same type of protection. Although we clearly understand the importance of these waters for waterfowl habitat, groundwater recharge, flood control, pollution reduction, and much more, the agencies do not believe the science on the connectivity between these waters and other waters that are more physically connected is robust enough in current form to support more categorical protections. The proposal includes a process for the agencies to follow on a case-by-case basis to evaluate more isolated waters for protection under the Clean Water Act. One of the opportunities during the comment period is to provide the agencies with additional science and other information that demonstrates why these waters should receive additional protection.
    A 90-day public comment period follows. We’ll be working hard to generate supportive comments from League members and others who care about clean water and healthy habitat.
    The League has been a leader on this issue for the past decade. We’ll continue to lead to safeguard the waters essential to our health, well-being, economy, and the outdoor recreation we enjoy.
    For more information on this issue, visit our Protecting Clean Water page.

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