EPA and Army Corps bring clarity to Clean Water Act Expansion proposal
In a joint document the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers released a proposed rule to clarify protections provided by the Clean Water Act. Following Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006, there has been much confusion about definitions within the Act and applicability. The proposed clarifications will enhance understanding for industry, agriculture, local government officials and the public as it relates to protection of streams and wetlands that form the foundation of the nation’s water resources.
"We are clarifying protection for the upstream waters that are absolutely vital to downstream communities," said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. "Clean water is essential to every single American, from families who rely on safe places to swim and healthy fish to eat, to farmers who need abundant and reliable sources of water to grow their crops, to hunters and fishermen who depend on healthy waters for recreation and their work, and to businesses that need a steady supply of water for operations."
"America's waters and wetlands are valuable resources that must be protected today and for future generations," said Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) Jo-Ellen Darcy. "Today's rulemaking will better protect our aquatic resources, by strengthening the consistency, predictability, and transparency of our jurisdictional determinations. The rule's clarifications will result in a better public service nationwide."
The health of rivers, lakes, bays, and coastal waters depend on the streams and wetlands where they begin. Streams and wetlands provide many benefits to communities — they trap floodwaters, recharge groundwater supplies, remove pollution, and provide habitat for fish and wildlife. They are also economic drivers because of their role in fishing, hunting, agriculture, recreation, energy, and manufacturing.
About 60 percent of stream miles in the U.S. only flow seasonally or after rain, but have a considerable impact on the downstream waters. And approximately 117 million people or one in three Americans, get drinking water from public systems that rely in part on these streams. These are important waterways for which EPA and the Army Corps is clarifying protection.
Specifically, the proposed rule clarifies that under the Clean Water Act and based on the science:
· Most seasonal and rain-dependent streams are protected.
· Wetlands near rivers and streams are protected.
· Other types of waters may have more uncertain connections with downstream water and protection will be evaluated through a case specific analysis of whether the connection is or is not significant. However, to provide more certainty, the proposal requests comment on options protecting similarly situated waters in certain geographic areas or adding to the categories of waters protected without case specific analysis.
Read more from the EPA Newsroom.
Boy playing in freshwater pond image via Shutterstock.