New Government Guidance Clarifies Protection of U.S. Wetlands and Streams
New guidance proposed today by the Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency would bring long-awaited and much needed clarity to the protection of our nation’s streams, wetlands, and open waters, according to the Southern Environmental Law Center. In recent years, too many wetlands and waterways essential to the health and well-being of our communities and wildlife have been left vulnerable to destruction because of confusion in the law after a series of court rulings.
“This new guidance signals that the Obama Administration is committed to upholding protections embodied in the four-decade-old Clean Water Act,” said Bill Sapp, senior attorney, Southern Environmental Law Center. “Clean water and healthy wetlands are too valuable a Southern resource not to protect—from the mountain trout streams in Appalachia to the rich web of rivers and wetlands that flow into our coastal marshlands and estuaries.
“We’re glad that the Corps and EPA are clarifying protections for these critical resources, and ensuring that future generations will still be able to enjoy the benefits of clean water,” said Sapp. “This effort stands in stark contrast with a recent effort by the House of Representative to block these very same measures.”
The Clean Water Act has a decades-long record of protecting water for drinking, fishing, and swimming. The new EPA guidance goes a long way towards clarifying the protections that Congress initially provided for headwater streams and wetlands when it passed the Clean Water Act in 1972.
“As the Corps and EPA state in the guidance, it is an interim step in a process that will seek public comment towards a final rule on how to protect wetlands, streams, and other waters,” said Sapp.
Protecting streams and wetlands that purify drinking water, buffer communities from storms and floods, and filter polluted runoff is vital to Americans’ health and quality of life. These waters also support tourism and outdoor recreation like boating, birding, hunting, fishing, and sight-seeing. Wetlands are especially important to the nation’s fisheries; 75 percent of the fish and shellfish commercially harvested and 90 percent of the recreational catch in this nation rely on wetlands during some portion of their lives.