Federal clean water protections restored for many waterways after Trump administration removal
CHAPEL HILL, N.C.—The Southern Environmental Law Center released the following statement regarding the Biden administration’s announcement today of its rule to reverse the removal of federal Clean Water Act protections against pollution and destruction of streams, wetlands, and other critical waterways by the Trump administration. The Trump administration’s now-vacated “Navigable Waters Protection Rule” removed protections from several public lakes including Lake Keowee, a drinking water reservoir for almost 400,000 people in South Carolina, and from wetlands such as the nearly 600 acres of wetlands next to the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in the way of a mining operation in Georgia.
“Today, the Biden administration restored needed clean water protections so that our nation’s waters are guarded against pollution for fishing, swimming, and as sources of drinking water,” said Kelly Moser, senior attorney and leader of the Southern Environmental Law Center’s Clean Water Defense Initiative. “The lakes, streams, and wetlands that this rule protects help to ensure the health of our ecosystems and communities.”
The prior administration stripped protections under the Clean Water Act from countless waters, leaving thousands of stream miles, many public recreational lakes, and millions of acres of wetlands without protections that have been in place for decades through every other administration and putting our communities and water supplies at risk. Wetlands help protect many Southern communities facing more frequent and intense rain events and flooding as a result of climate change.
Under the prior administration’s now-vacated rule that was in effect from June 2020 until August 2021, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers slated thousands of wetlands and other waterways to be destroyed by industry. Among the projects were two revised jurisdictional determinations that removed protections from nearly 600 acres of wetlands by the Army Corps of Engineers for a massive mine on the doorstep of the iconic Okefenokee Swamp and from about 200 acres of wetlands that absorb floodwaters in a flood prone area for a large development near the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge in South Carolina.
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