EPA And Army Corps Of Engineers Clarify Protection For Nation’s Streams And Wetlands

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Tuesday jointly released a proposed rule to clarify protection under the Clean Water Act for streams and wetlands that form the foundation of the nation’s water resources. The proposed rule will benefit businesses by increasing efficiency in determining coverage of the Clean Water Act. The agencies are launching a robust outreach effort over the next 90 days, holding discussions around the country and gathering input needed to shape a final rule.

Determining Clean Water Act protection for streams and wetlands became confusing and complex following Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006. For nearly a decade, members of Congress, state and local officials, industry, agriculture, environmental groups, and the public asked for a rulemaking to provide clarity.

The proposed rule clarifies protection for streams and wetlands. The proposed definitions of waters will apply to all Clean Water Act programs. It does not protect any new types of waters that have not historically been covered under the Clean Water Act and is consistent with the Supreme Court’s more narrow reading of Clean Water Act jurisdiction.

“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 – 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.

The proposed rule preserves the Clean Water Act exemptions and exclusions for agriculture. Additionally, EPA and the Army Corps have coordinated with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop an interpretive rule to ensure that 53 specific conservation practices that protect or improve water quality will not be subject to Section 404 dredged or fill permitting requirements. The agencies will work together to implement these new exemptions and periodically review, and update USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service conservation practice standards and activities that would qualify under the exemption. Any agriculture activity that does not result in the discharge of a pollutant to waters of the U.S. still does not require a permit.

The proposed rule also helps states and tribes – according to a study by the Environmental Law Institute, 36 states have legal limitations on their ability to fully protect waters that aren’t covered by the Clean Water Act.

The proposed rule is supported by the latest peer-reviewed science, including a draft scientific assessment by EPA, which presents a review and synthesis of more than 1,000 pieces of scientific literature. The rule will not be finalized until the final version of this scientific assessment is complete. 

Forty years ago, two-thirds of America’s lakes, rivers and coastal waters were unsafe for fishing and swimming. Because of the Clean Water Act, that number has been cut in half. However, one-third of the nation’s waters still do not meet standards.

The proposed rule will be open for public comment for 90 days from publication in the Federal Register. The interpretive rule for agricultural activities is effective immediately.

For more information, go to www.epa.gov/uswaters.

Watch Administrator McCarthy’s overview at http://youtu.be/ow-n8zZuDYc.

Watch Deputy Chief of Staff Arvin Ganesan’s explanation at http://youtu.be/fOUESH_JmA0.


Midtown Pathway Shared-Use Trail Planned Along Brainerd Road

A Midtown Pathway shared-use trail is being planned along Brainerd Road. It would go from Spring Creek Road to Greenway View Drive in the vicinity of Eastgate Town Center and Brainerd Village shopping center. The city is seeking a $1,060,000 state Transportation Alternative Grant for the project. The city's share of the cost would be $326,400.   (click for more)

Waterfowl WMA Application Deadline Approaching

Applications will be accepted until midnight (CDT) on Wednesday, Sept. 28 for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s 2016 Wildlife Management Area waterfowl hunts. A computerized drawing system will be held to select successful applicants based on the priority drawing system. Hunters may apply at any TWRA license agent, at any TWRA regional office, or online at www.tnwildlife.org ... (click for more)

City To Begin Shipping Much Of Its Garbage To Bradley County

City Public Works Administrator Justin Holland said the city plans to begin shipping much of its garbage to Bradley County. He said the deal is projected to extend the life of the city landfill at Birchwood by 15 years. Mr. Holland said Bradley County "has a huge landfill and takes garbage from Knoxville and other municipalities. It's regional." He said Bradley County charges ... (click for more)

Man Says He Did Nothing To Provoke Shooting At Bakewell Gas Station; Suspect Says Victim Was Coming Toward Him

A 33-year-old man who was shot in the face during a clash at a Bakewell gas station said he did nothing to provoke the shooting. The man charged said the victim cursed him, then started toward him. General Sessions Court Judge Clarence Shattuck, after a hearing on Tuesday, bound to the Grand Jury a charge of attempted first-degree murder against Donald Stuard II, 29, of Old Washington ... (click for more)

Something Beautiful Happened Monday Night - Not The Debate

Monday, Sept. 26, our first presidential debate happened; no minds were changed.  Yet something beautiful and important happened.  The Atlanta Falcons, my team, played the New Orleans Saints.  Instead of some irrelevant, broad based, screw America protest, the opposing teams locked arms in unity. I was impressed. I have been a Falcon Fan since 1971 when WMOC AM ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Our 2.0 Embarrassment

Let’s pretend you are coming to a new and exciting world. You are on the jolly good ship “Mayflower” when some Miles Standish-type of a guy (he was the Pilgrim’s first cop) calls you into is presence and says, “Within two hours we are expected to stand on Plymouth Rock. Please come up with ten primary goals we should have in our public schools.” I believe you could do it within ... (click for more)