The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) issued a new rule on May 27, 2015 that will help better protect the waters of the nation. The rule clarifies which of our waters will be protected, including the small rivers, streams, and wetlands in and through national parks that provide clean drinking water for visitors and habitat for park wildlife.
What the Clean Water Rule Does
Provides clear and predictable protections for many streams, wetlands, and other waterways while providing better guidance to federal and state regulators about what is and is not protected, which helps streamline the permitting process.
Covers only the water bodies that the Clean Water Act has traditionally covered, such as intermittent headwater streams that have a defined bed and bank and flow to water already covered by the Act.
Reiterates existing exemptions for farming, forestry, mining and other land use activities, and very explicitly for the first time excludes many ditches, ponds, and other upland water features important for farming and forestry.
Restores safeguards and protects streams, wetlands, and other waters nationwide by providing clear science-based and legal framework for determining waterways that are protected by the Clean Water Act.
What the Clean Water Rule Does Not Do
- Cover any new types of waters that have not historically been covered under the Clean Water Act, such as groundwater. The proposed rule actually applies to fewer waters than were historically covered under the Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton administrations.
- Expand coverage to any new ditches. In fact, upland drainage ditches with less than perennial water flow are explicitly excluded.
- Cover any artificial lakes, ponds, and artificial ornamental waters in upland areas or water-filled depressions created as a result of construction activity. These areas are explicitly exempted by the rule.
- Cover agricultural practices exempt under current law. The most common farming and ranching practices, including plowing, cultivating, seeding, minor drainage, harvesting for the production of food, fiber and forest products, are exempt under the CWA and that exemption is reiterated in the proposed rule.
For more information:
- Waters of the United States - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- The Historical Scope of Clean Water Act Jurisdiction - Policy Journal of the Environmental Law Institute, 2012
Urge the Senate to support the final Clean Water Rule
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