Breaking: 18% of streams and 51% of wetlands under threat

On December 11, 2018, in response to a February 28, 2017 Executive Order and three Supreme Court decisions, the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) jointly proposed a new Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule (AKA the Clean Water Rule), narrowing the scope of the 1972 Clean Water Act, and probably disingenuously argues that states will make up the difference. Washington Ag Network states the replacement rule is “welcomed by U.S. agriculture” and the Farm Bureau president has spoken in support of it, saying current rules aren’t clear. The Agricultural Policy Analysis Center at University of Tennessee argues:

A better solution to changing WOTUS may be to require the federal government to map the areas that it determines are in the watershed of ephemeral streams. Then farmers will not be faced the problem of not knowing whether or not they need to apply for a permit before engaging changes to their land.

The National Law Review has published an outline of the changes. A 2017 EPA/USACE slideshow (pdf) estimated 18% of streams and 51% of wetlands would no longer be protected. The Environmental Defense Fund recommends edge-of-field and watershed-level conservation and restoring buffers, filters and wetlands. Once the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register, a 60-day comment period will start. We’ll post when it does, as will Martha’s list.

Photo: US EPA Wetland area in the Chesapeake Bay