Policy Pulse: The Smell of Victory – and Clean Water

Photo credit: USFWS

On August 29, the “clean water rule” officially took effect. This rule restores protections of the Clean Water Act to small streams and wetlands across the country – the sources of larger waters we depend on for drinking, fishing, swimming, boating, and other uses. These small waters lost longstanding protections under the Clean Water Act due to lawsuits that resulted in some very confusing Supreme Court rulings. Without clear legal protection, these waters have been at heightened risk of being drained and filled.

After years of exhaustive scientific review and public input, the agencies responsible for clean water in the United States – the Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – took action to restore critical protections. They did it in a way that is methodical and logical. They wrote this rule so that it protects most of the waters that are directly connected and that are big enough to have an impact on water quality downstream. They wrote into the rule protections and exemptions for industries including farming, too.

This hasn’t stopped critics from attacking the rule from all sides – with lobbyists in Congress, talking heads in the media, and lawyers in court. On October 9, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit granted a temporary stay of the “waters of the U.S.” rule. The court credited EPA and the Corps of Engineers for attempting to make a “long overdue” clarification but said the breadth of the rule “counsels strongly in favor of maintaining the status quo for the time being.”

In response to this rule, IWLA Executive Director Scott Kovarovics said, “The decision to temporarily halt implementation of the clean water rule is disappointing. In making this decision, the court prioritized the status quo that existed before the new rule was finalized. The ‘status quo’ now means uncertainty about which streams and wetlands are protected under the Clean Water Act. It means that waters essential for hunting, fishing, and the outdoor recreation economy remain at risk. And it means that drinking water supplies for 1 in 3 Americans remain threatened."

"For Izaak Walton League members nationwide, the status quo is not acceptable," Kovarovics said further. "We look forward to a speedy resolution to this case and a final decision that upholds the clean water rule and common-sense protections for our nation’s waters.”

You can help. Congress needs to hear from people who love the outdoors and clean water. Tell your representatives that you support the clean water rule. Visit our advocacy page for sample language.