Protect Small Streams and Wetlands

boys by streamEPA proposed a sweeping rollback of Clean Water Act protections, threatening drinking water supplies for 1 in 3 Americans, habitat for fish and wildlife, and the $887 billion outdoor recreation economy.

Most tributary streams – regardless of where they flow or how they affect water quality and public health – would lose protection. The proposal also strips protection for as many as 20 million acres of wetlands because they do not have a continuous surface connection to a river or lake.

Take Action

Before EPA can implement this damaging policy, it must accept and consider public comments. Please comment today and urge EPA to adopt strong protections for streams and wetlands! Here's how:

  • Simply copy the text from the letter below.
  • Click the Comment Now button below the letter to pull up the website.
  • Paste the letter into the comment box. Feel free to personalize the letter with your own thoughts about why clean water is important to you, or type in your own comments urging EPA to protect streams, wetlands, and clean water.
  • Be sure to type your name, city, and state at the bottom of the letter!
  • Click Continue to preview your comments. Then click “Submit Comment.”

The Environmental Protection Agency
Administrator Andrew Wheeler
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20460


Dear Administrator Wheeler,

The Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have proposed a new rule defining which waters will be protected by the Clean Water Act. I oppose the proposed rule redefining "Waters of the United States" because it is wholly unsupported by science, unlawfully fails to implement the fundamental purpose of the Clean Water Act, and threatens the nation’s outdoor recreation economy.

By only protecting streams that flow continuously, some intermittent streams, and wetlands with a continuous surface connection to protected waters, the proposed rule would eliminate protections for up to 70% of streams in the United States and 20 million acres of wetlands. This wholesale abandonment of the fundamentals of the Clean Water Act could leave the drinking water for 1 in 3 Americans at risk for pollution. Worse, the agencies have opened the door for eliminating protections for even more tributary streams by asking for comment on a definition that would only protect streams that flow continuously all year.

The proposed rule ignores the overwhelming scientific record, of which the EPA is well aware. In developing the 2015 Clean Water Rule, the EPA identified more than 1200 studies demonstrating the biological, chemical, hydrologic, and other connections between waters. In the current rulemaking, the EPA has done nothing that creditably challenges its own scientific findings and evidence that supports broad-based protections for tributaries and wetlands under the Clean Water Act based on how water quality in those waters affects water quality in downstream waters. In fact, in defending its repeal of the 2015 Clean Water Rule, the EPA has only said the agency previously relied on its own scientific findings too heavily! That a science-based agency would put forth such an argument when determining what waters will be protected from pollution is preposterous. Based on the science alone, the proposed rule cannot stand.

The proposed rule fails to meet the purpose of the Clean Water Act. The transmission of pollution from smaller to larger waters is not solely dependent on the length of time that a stream flows. The purpose of the Clean Water Act is to improve water quality nationwide, in part by regulating what is discharged into the Waters of the United States. Pollution discharged into tributary streams, even if they do not flow continuously all year, will affect the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation’s waters. Likewise, the vital hydrological role of wetlands for storage and purification of water within a system does not change simply because a wetland might lack a continuous surface connection to a large river or lake. It is imperative that we protect these important resources.

In addition to failing to protect drinking water and public health, the proposed rule threatens the $887 billion outdoor recreation economy. Clean water and abundant wetlands are essential to a number of outdoor recreation activities, including hunting, angling, paddling, and boating. Isolated wetlands, including the prairie potholes of the Northern Great Plains, are essential breeding habitat for North American waterfowl and many freshwater fish rely on ephemeral and intermittent streams at some time during their life cycle. Furthermore, Americans understand that protecting clean water is necessary for high-quality outdoor recreation, especially hunting and fishing. Instead of relaxing Clean Water Act protections, 92% of American sportsmen and women believe we should strengthen or maintain current standards, according to a 2018 poll conducted by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

For these and other reasons, the agencies must withdraw the proposed rule and reinstate the 2015 Clean Water Rule. The 2015 Clean Water Rule has a strong foundation in science, protects water quality throughout America’s watersheds in compliance with the Clean Water Act, and supports the $887 billion outdoor recreation economy.

Thank you for considering these important factors as you shape the future of America’s most critical natural resource: clean water.


Thank you for telling EPA that this proposal is unsupported by science, the Clean Water Act, and common sense! Together, we can keep our country’s waterways clean, protect the health of people and wildlife, preserve the beauty of our lakes and rivers, and continue to enjoy outdoor activities.