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Policy Pulse: Ikes Oppose Effort To Reduce Protections for Streams and Wetlands

Outdoor America 2019 Issue 2
fly fisherman Seneca Creek tributary in Pendleton County WV_credit Ches Bay Prog

In February, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers began accepting public comments on the Trump Administration’s definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) — a regulation that tells agency staff which waters are protected by the Clean Water Act.

If this new regulation is finalized as proposed, it would no longer be illegal under federal law to dump pollution directly into up to 70 percent of streams across America or drain millions of acres of wetlands without a permit.

This regulation would define WOTUS in a way that eliminates Clean Water Act protections for all wetlands that do not have a surface connection to a protected water body. This means that if a wetland does not actually touch a large river, lake, or ocean, it could be drained and filled without a permit. In addition, streams that only flow after rain or snow events would lose protection, and streams that regularly flow just part of the year will only be protected if they flow directly into another stream that flows continuously all year.

And the threat to intermittent streams could get even worse. The agencies specifically requested comments on how Clean Water Act protections should be further limited to only streams that flow continuously all year. In other words, they ask point blank: tell us how we can eliminate protections for more tributaries.

This proposal threatens to dramatically harm water quality across America and fails to account for science, the law, or the outdoor recreation economy. Unfortunately, EPA and the Corps opened the comment period for just 60 days, dramatically limiting the American public’s ability to provide input. However, the League actively drove public comments while the comment period was open. In addition to our own comments, the League provided a template for members to use so that they could submit comments opposing this rule. We also recruited IWLA chapters and divisions to sign on to a comment letter with other sportsmen’s and conservation groups.

Despite EPA’s attempt to short circuit opposition through a very short comment period, the League refused to be silenced and worked diligently to make our voice — and the voices of our members — heard.

Jared Mott, IWLA Conservation Director