Take Action for Clean Headwater Streams Today!

posted June 14, 2011
by Kevin Colburn

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The EPA and Army Corp of Engineers are proposing new guidelines that will ensure that the Clean Water Act covers whitewater rivers and their tributaries.  The proposed guidelines are in response to Bush-era interpretations of lawsuits that leave many headwater streams unprotected or underprotected.  Paddlers should take a minute or two and let the EPA and Corp of Engineers know that you support their proposed guidelines. 

Many of the rivers and streams we paddle are safe to paddle today because of the Clean Water Act, which regulates pollution discharges.  The Clean Water Act protects recreation, the stream environment, riparian property owners, drinking water sources, and significant economic activity from the impacts of unregulated pollution.  Ensuring that the Clean Water Act covers headwater rivers and streams is incredibly important for all of us that paddle upstream and live downstream. 

The debate that led to the new guidance is focused on which types of water bodies the Clean Water Act is intended to cover.  A decade ago, it was assumed that virtually all rivers, streams, and wetlands were covered.  Narrow interpretations of relatively recent lawsuits jeopardized that broad coverage.  Roughly half of the streams in our Country - and nearly all the whitewater rivers - are now in a regulatory limbo that could lead to direct impacts and bad precedents for rivers. 

The proposed guidance is consistent with the intent and letter of the Clean Water Act as well as the recent lawsuits, and proposes broad coverage of most water bodies.  Importantly, it proposes that the Clean Water Act should cover all "traditionally navigable" streams and tributaries to those streams.  It defines traditionally navigable streams as those capable of supporting kayaking, canoeing or rafting.  In essence, your exploration and documentation of rivers will lead to water quality protection under the proposed guidance. 

We believe that linking public use and water quality protections makes good sense.  We also feel that since water flows downhill, it is common sense to protect tributaries to traditionally navigable waters and related wetlands.  We encourage all paddlers to take just a couple minutes to submit a comment in support of the EPA and Army Corp proposed guidance.

LEARN MORE AND COMMENT  using the "What Do You Think" tab.  You can download American Whitewater's comments in the Document Box to the right of this article. 

Comments are due by July 1, 2011.

Kevin Colburn
Missoula, MT
Phone: 406-543-1802


Documents

  • Clean Water Act Guidance AW Comments

    American Whitewater's comments on the proposed guidance clarifying that the Clean Water Act covers "traditionally navigable" headwater streams and their tributaries.