Senator Klobuchar Holds Key to National Clean Water Legislation (4/22/09)
For Immediate Release
April 22, 2009
Senator Klobuchar Holds Key to National Clean Water Legislation and Conservation Groups Urge Her to Play Leadership Role
St. Paul, MN – A coalition of leading sportsmen’s and conservation groups from across Minnesota today urged U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar to continue her leadership on conservation issues by supporting critical clean water legislation that will protect drinking water for nearly one million Minnesotans and the streams, lakes and wetlands essential to the State’s heritage and economic health. This legislation – the Clean Water Restoration Act – could be considered early next month by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on which Senator Klobuchar sits.
“When Minnesotans voted last fall for the Clean Water, Land and Legacy amendment in greater number than any other issue, we made a resounding statement of support for conserving the lands and waters so essential to our way of life,” said David Zentner, former national President of the Izaak Walton League and one of the leaders of the successful ballot initiative. “If our streams are polluted or our prairie potholes are filled because they are not protected by the Clean Water Act, money alone will never be enough to regain what we’ll lose.”
“Minnesotans love their lakes, streams, and wetlands,” said Gary Botzek, Executive Director of the Minnesota Conservation Federation. “The long-term health of these precious waters depend upon the foundation of a strong and effective Clean Water Act,” he added.
The Clean Water Restoration Act responds to U.S. Supreme Court decisions in 2001 (SWANCC v. Army Corps of Engineers) and 2006 (Rapanos v. United States) that threaten to remove Clean Water Act protections for hundreds of thousands of miles of streams and rivers that flow through our communities and for millions of acres of wetlands. The legislation clarifies the definition of “waters of the United States” based on the definition that has been in Army Corps and EPA regulations for decades. Moreover, it clearly maintains long-standing exemptions from the law for farming, ranching, logging and energy development.
“Our fundamental hope is that our leaders are able to find a legislative solution that delivers a lasting, unassailable statement about the value of natural wetlands and clean water and the need to immediately stanch their loss,” said Jim Klatt of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Because when it comes to wetlands, we hunt ’em, fish ’em, eat ’em, drink ’em. In every way, we need ’em.”
“Minnesota is not only the land of 10,000 lakes, but it’s also the land of thousands of miles of rivers and streams,” said John Lenczewski, Chairman of the Minnesota Council of Trout Unlimited. “Our rivers and streams are sustained by the small, headwater tributaries which are at risk of losing Clean Water Act protection because of the Supreme Court’s Rapanos decision. These little streams provide big fisheries habitat and water quality benefits, and the Clean Water Restoration Act is needed to ensure that they again receive Clean Water Act protection in the face of encroaching development through the state,” said Lenczewski.
The letter to Senator Klobuchar follows:
April 22, 2009
The Honorable Amy Klobuchar
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator Klobuchar:
We the undersigned organizations write on behalf of the thousands of Minnesotans we represent to urge you to support and co-sponsor the Clean Water Restoration Act (S. 787). By supporting this legislation, you can help to safeguard our drinking water and the streams, lakes and wetlands that are critical to hunting, fishing and many other forms of outdoor recreation.
Following passage of the landmark Clean Water Act, we’ve made tremendous progress reducing the pollution that fouled our lakes, caused our rivers to burn and threatened the health of millions of Americans. However, many rivers, lakes and wetlands in our communities could lose the protections on which every American depends.
It is essential to act this year. Supreme Court decisions in 2001 (SWANCC v. Army Corps of Engineers) and 2006 (Rapanos v. United States) threaten to remove Clean Water Act protections for thousands of miles of streams and rivers that flow through our communities and for millions of acres of wetlands. In addition, these decisions and agency guidance to implement them have created confusion and uncertainty nationwide, undermined Clean Water Act enforcement, and delayed the Army Corps permitting process. The following are only a few examples of what’s at stake:
• The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that more than 111 million Americans get their drinking water from public supplies fed in whole or in part by intermittent or ephemeral streams. Streams that flow only part of the year are particularly vulnerable to pollution under these decisions.
• At least 20 million acres of wetlands—or 20% of all remaining wetlands in the lower 48 states—could lose Clean Water Act protection under these decisions and current agency guidance. Prairie potholes—arguably the most important habitat for migratory waterfowl in the United States—are especially threatened.
• In a March 2008 memo, the head of enforcement for EPA cited uncertainty created by the Rapanos decision and agency guidance to implement it for a decline in Clean Water Act enforcement actions. The memo states that “since July 2006, the Rapanos decision or the Guidance negatively affected approximately 500 enforcement cases.” A December 2008 investigative report by the staff of the House Committees on Oversight and Government Reform and Transportation and Infrastructure underscored the significance of this decline and highlighted serious pollution problems, including oil spills, which are not being addressed because of legal and regulatory confusion.
In our great state of Minnesota—where lakes and streams reside at the very core of our heritage and identity—correcting these grave threats is essential.
• In Minnesota, EPA estimates that 45 percent of the streams have no other streams flowing into them, and that 51 percent do not flow year-round. EPA also reports that 959,301 people in Minnesota receive some of their drinking water from areas containing these smaller streams and that at least 183 facilities located on such streams currently have permits under the federal law regulating their pollution discharges.
• In addition, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources determined that up to 92% of the wetlands in Minnesota’s Northern Glaciated Plains ecoregion, including the State’s prairie pothole region, may lose Clean Water Act jurisdiction.
• In economic terms, the threat is equally dramatic. Recent figures on fishing’s impact in Minnesota show that: 1,108,000 residents spent a total of 22,305,000 days fishing in Minnesota; 319,000 non-residents spent a total of 2,077,000 days fishing in Minnesota; the total economic impact of fishing in Minnesota in 2006 was $4.7 Billion.
Although the new Administration can address part of the problem by revising agency guidance, for example, only Congress can provide a lasting solution by amending the Clean Water Act itself. The House and Senate took important steps forward last year with hearings in the Transportation and Infrastructure and Environment and Public Works Committees.
By co-sponsoring the Clean Water Restoration Act, you can help continue the momentum to protect the water we drink and the streams, lakes and wetlands that are essential for fish, wildlife and outdoor recreation. Thank you for considering this request and for taking specific steps to protect clean water.
Fish & Wildlife Legislative Alliance
Izaak Walton League of America
Izaak Walton League of America – Minnesota Division
Minnesota Conservation Federation
Minnesota Council of Trout Unlimited
Minnesota Darkhouse and Angling Association
Minnesota Waterfowl Association
National Wildlife Federation
The Nature Conservancy
Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership