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Protect Our Rivers Water Quality! Comments Needed on New Clean Water Act Rule

Posted: 04/04/2019
by Evan Stafford

For over 40 years, the Clean Water Act has ensured that Americans have clean water to drink and that our rivers are safe for outdoor recreation. Americans recreate in the water – swimming, paddling, surfing, boating, fishing – 4 BILLION times each year (source). Right now there's an attempt by the EPA to significantly weaken the Clean Water Act and we need your voice to help protect the water quality in our nation's rivers!
 
As crucial as it is, the Clean Water Act has not been without debate, and deciding which waters to protect has reached the Supreme Court a few times. American Whitewater was directly engaged in a public process to define the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS), i.e. which waters are under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. We invested considerable capacity in the development of a rule that reflected the input of the whitewater boating community. In 2015, the Clean Water Rule was released, clarifying protections for headwater streams where the majority of whitewater recreation takes place. Healthy headwater areas are not only important for recreation, clean drinking water and healthy ecosystems, but also for local economies. We celebrated the passage of this rule based on years of scientific study, sound economic arguments, and wide public support; In 2017 this rule was withdrawn, creating a significant threat to the health of our most cherished waterways and those who enjoy the recreational opportunities they provide.
 
People still get sick from polluted water, but instead of strengthening the Clean Water Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently proposed a new rule that would weaken it considerably. The new rule would make changes to the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) by removing protections for seasonal streams and adjacent wetlands. Seasonal streams and wetlands are important because, as all boaters know, they feed into downstream waters where we recreate, and are the source of clean drinking water. 
 
As written, the Clean Water Act stipulates that, for example, if you are a landowner and every spring, a seasonal stream runs through your property and eventually joins with a larger river, you are not allowed to dump pollutants into that stream. Why? Because all those pollutants run downhill and end up in your in our rivers where we paddle and in our town’s drinking water. As written, this rule would put the drinking water of 1 in 3 Americans at risk, and strip protections for tens of millions of acres of wetlands according to the EPA's own analysis (source). Whitewater paddlers know healthy headwaters are important for clean water in all our rivers, because we love to play in headwater streams and know their interconnectivity to larger rivers downstream. 
 
The EPA is collecting feedback from Americans on the new WOTUS rule only until April 15. It’s important for people who love playing in river to speak up and we make it super simple with our easy action form. We have a powerful voice and this is a key time to use it – and we encourage you to personalize your message, it makes a big difference!
Evan Stafford
516 Stover Street
Fort Collins, CO 80524
Phone: 970-420-5377