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Trout Unlimited Praises EPA, Army Corps for Clean Water Actions
9/19/2013
Credit:
TU press release
WASHINGTON, D.C.-Trout Unlimited has praised the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) for steps they took to clarify and restore Clean Water Act protections to the nation's headwater streams, wetlands, and lakes.

First, EPA's Scientific Advisory Board released a draft scientific report that will inform the agencies' decisions about Clean Water Act jurisdiction. The report synthesizes the peer-reviewed scientific literature pertaining to biological, chemical, and hydrologic connectivity of waters and the effects that headwater streams, wetlands, and other waters have on larger downstream waters such as rivers, lakes, and estuaries. The draft report is open for a 45-day public comment period.

Second, EPA and the Corps also announced they have submitted a draft rule clarifying and restoring Clean Water Act jurisdiction to the Office of Management and Budget for interagency review. This draft rule is intended to more clearly define which U.S. waters are subject to Clean Water Act protections-something that has been left unclear by previous agency guidance. The science report, described above, will support and inform the draft rule.

"There is nothing more fundamentally important for conserving trout and salmon fisheries than making accurate determinations about what should, and should not, be protected by the nation's bedrock water law, the Clean Water Act," said Steve Moyer, TU's vice president of government affairs. "Millions of American sportsmen and women have been asking the agencies and the Obama administration for two years to take action. Today, at last, they did, and we salute them for it," said Moyer.

Two Supreme Court decisions, and agency guidance issued following those decisions, jeopardized longstanding protections for many of the nation's headwater streams and wetlands. Taken together, they removed Clean Water Act protections for at least 20 million acres of wetlands, and put at risk millions of miles of headwater streams that provide critical habitat for fish, especially trout, and sustain the public drinking water systems for more than 117 million Americans. Headwater streams are extremely important habitat for spawning and rearing of juvenile trout and salmon. Without protection, the filling or polluting of these waters could significantly impact downstream habitat and valuable fisheries.

Though generally positive about the news today, TU was greatly disappointed in an announcement from EPA that its draft jurisdictional guidance would be withdrawn. The agencies put a great deal of good work into the draft guidance, but it was left in limbo for two years. The guidance should be implemented now to provide immediate help for improving the methods used by the agencies to determine Clean Water Act jurisdiction. The draft guidance had already undergone extensive public scrutiny, and was strongly supported by the vast majority of over 200,000 public commenters.

"While we salute most of today's action, the importance of moving quickly to publicly review and quickly implement the rulemaking cannot be understated, as the current questions of jurisdictions could result in continued loss of wetlands and tributary streams," said Moyer.

Trout Unlimited is the nation's oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring North America's trout and salmon and their watersheds. Follow TU on Facebook and Twitter, and visit us online at tu.org.