Clean Water Guidance: An Important First Step
Apr 27, 2011 Posted by Dawn Merritt
By Scott Kovarovics, IWLA Conservation Programs Director
Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers took a critical first step to begin restoring Clean Water Act protections for streams, wetlands, and other waters. They issued a draft of what will be new instructions – known as “guidance” – to their staff in the field about how to implement the Clean Water Act.
Although this might sound like a mundane bureaucratic exercise, it is anything but that – and can make a real difference in protecting waters that are essential to every American.
Why is this guidance important? Over the past decade, the U.S. Supreme Court has been chipping away at the Clean Water Act, slowly but surely reducing the types of waters that are protected by this landmark law. Streams that may not flow all year, prairie potholes, and other small wetlands are most at risk.
While the Supreme Court decisions are damaging, guidance issued by the last administration has made the problem even worse. That guidance, which is in effect until replaced, further limits the conditions under which the EPA and the Corps can to prevent streams from being polluted or wetlands from being drained and filled.
Replacing the guidance from the last administration with the instructions proposed today is an essential first step in a longer term effort to fully restore Clean Water Act protections. Contrary to the overheated rhetoric we’re likely to hear from clean water opponents, the proposed guidance is moderate and balanced. It relies on clearly established science about the connection between streams, wetlands, and other waters. And it falls well within the boundaries of the Clean Water Act and the Supreme Court decisions.
The League and our members have been working hard to restore the Clean Water Act. Today’s action by EPA and the Corps is a small, but important, victory in our fight. Now, it’s up to us to support the proposal during the 60 day comment period. Support from League members and other Americans who hunt, fish, and enjoy the outdoors will make a difference. Our voices matter – not only to get this guidance in place but to help EPA and the Corps take future steps to strengthen clean water protections.
– Scott Kovarovics, IWLA Conservation Programs Director
Read more about this issue on the League's Protecting Clean Water Web page.