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.


Wildflower Walks Celebrate Spring Blooms In Georgia’s State Parks

Longer days, warmer weather and colorful blooms are sure signs of Spring’s arrival. To celebrate the season, Georgia State Park rangers are hosting a series of guided wildflower walks that provide a close look at blooms such as Canada Violet, Trout Lily, Wild Azalea, Spring Beauty, Foamflower, Trillium, Indian Pink and Buckeye.  For details on Georgia State Park wildflower ... (click for more)

Fur Harvesters Sale Is March 4 In Crossville

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) will be on hand to provide fur harvesters with bobcat and otter tags at the annual Fur Harvesters Association sale on  March 4 , at the Cumberland County Fair Complex in Crossville. Check in starts at  8:00 a.m. Central Standard Time and the sale will begin  9:30 a.m.  The event will continue until all sales are ... (click for more)

Car Crosses Center Line And Grazes Bradley School Bus; 3 Students Taken To Hospital For Observation

A car came across the center line and grazed the right side bumper of a school bus in Bradley County on Monday afternoon. Three students were taken to the hospital for observation. School officials said Bradley County School bus #48 was involved in the accident on Old Chattanooga Pike and Black Fox Road. Students were assessed and three were taken to the hospital ... (click for more)

NASA Employee Gets 10-Year Federal Prison Term After Being Caught In Child Sex Sting In Chattanooga; De Matties Placed Ad Looking For "Petite Young Teenage Slut"

Thomas de Matteis, 54, of Hazel Green, Ala., was sentenced on Monday by Federal Judge Sandy Mattice to serve 10 years in federal prison for coercing or enticing a minor to engage in sexual activity. Matteis entered a guilty plea to the charge in November 2016.   At the time of his offenses, Matteis was employed by NASA in Alabama.  An investigation started by ... (click for more)

Embrace America - And Response (2)

Okay, Hollywierd we get it. The world of entertainment and cinema arts do not support President Trump. But for all their derisive and divisive speech, truth remains. People who support conservative values do not hate children, we do not hate immigrants, we do not hate other races and ethnicities although that is all you trumpet at every opportunity.  What we do support ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Way 'Over The Line'

Every day last week a Chattanooga woman sent me a press release for a “Recess Week of Action,” which was the greatest example of “an exercise in futility” that I can recall in recent years. I absolutely refuse to attend, write, or publicize such a group of admittedly-questionable political agitators. Please, I have never seen anything like this! Sometime soon, I suspect, the truth ... (click for more)