Attempts to Roll Back Clean Water Protections Continue

posted November 21, 2017
by Megan Hooker

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers are continuing the process of reversing and replacing the 2015 Clean Water Rule that offered protections for our nation's headwater streams and wetlands under the Clean Water Act. The agencies are receiving preliminary recommendations about which water bodies the Act should cover through Tuesday, November 28th.

This action is the second step following a February 2017 executive order that directed the EPA and Army Corps to rescind or revise the 2015 Clean Water Rule. The agencies initiated the first step earlier this year by accepting comments on a proposal to rescind the rule. (Thanks to everyone that submitted comments in the last round!) The current process represents a new opportunity to comment, and seeks input on what should replace the Clean Water Rule. In effect, it asks what waters you want to see protected under the Clean Water Act. You can view American Whitewater’s comments on this round here.

Protecting the water quality of our nation's headwater streams is important to paddlers because this is where the majority of whitewater recreation happens, and these are the streams that flow together to create all rivers. Following years of ambiguity about which streams and wetlands are protected under the Clean Water Act, the EPA and Army Corps developed the Clean Water Rule through extensive public outreach and input (including to and from the paddling community) and thorough scientific review. The process clearly showed that protecting headwater streams and wetlands is necessary in order to meet the Clean Water Act's goal of making all of our waterways fishable, swimmable and drinkable. As paddlers, we know this to be true as we experience first-hand that when it rains, pollution in wetlands and creek beds that run dry ends up downstream. In 2015, the Clean Water Rule codified this understanding.

The agencies are now evaluating whether the Clean Water Act should apply instead only to “relatively permanent” rivers and streams, and wetlands with a “continuous surface connection” to them. However, if the goal is to protect downstream states, people, drinking water, fish and property rights, the Clean Water Act must apply to our nation's headwaters and hydrologically connected wetlands. This is important for the economy too, because healthy rivers attract and inspire new businesses, revitalize communities, and create boons to public health, fitness, and happiness.
American Whitewater supported the 2015 Clean Water Rule, and continues to speak up in its defense. Any revision of the rules that specify which waters are protected under the Clean Water Act must be based on an equally rigorous scientific process based on hydrology and wetlands science. It also must include a public process that is at least as comprehensive as the previous round and ensure that input from all relevant stakeholders is considered.

You can share your thoughts with the EPA and Army Corps here by Tuesday, November 28th. To learn more about the agencies' process, click here. Stay tuned to American Whitewater for information as the process evolves, and for opportunities to speak up in support of clean water.

Associated News