Sportsmen support federal water rule — The Durango Herald #cleanwaterrules

Fen photo via the USFS
Fen photo via the USFS

From The Durango Herald (Peter Marcus):

The bipartisan poll – conducted by two separate pollsters – highlights support across political lines, despite partisan gridlock in Congress. Critics of the survey, however, believe the poll left out key questions…

The Clean Water Rule will take effect Aug. 28. It clarifies regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act to protect streams and wetlands.

In Colorado, 66 percent of sportsmen support applying the Clean Water Act to smaller streams and wetlands, with 43 percent indicating strong support, according to the survey. About 31 percent indicate opposition. Across all the four states surveyed, 83 percent of hunters and anglers thought the EPA should apply the Clean Water Act to smaller, headwater streams and wetlands.

The poll was conducted by right-leaning Public Opinion Strategies and left-leaning Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research.

“This is incredibly broad,” said Al Quinlan, president of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. “It’s as broad of support as I see for any issue in the electorate today.”

The survey was completed after interviews with 1,000 registered voters who identify as hunters and anglers. Pollsters completed 260 interviews with voters in Colorado.

A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, who has strongly opposed implementation of the rule, suggested that the poll should have included questions pointing to local environmental protections.

“This sin of omission is misleading, and skews the survey to the desired outcome of those asking the questions,” Tipton spokesman Josh Green said. “To imply that there is wide support for the EPA’s Waters of the U.S. rule – with this survey as the evidence – is deeply misleading and insulting.”

More Environmental Protection Agency coverage here.

EPA and Navajo Nation EPA Enter Historic Agreements with Navajo Tribal Utility Authority to Halt Water Pollution

Grand Falls Little Colorado River
Grand Falls Little Colorado River

Here’s the release from the Environmental Protection Agency (Soledad Calvino/Rick Abasta):

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Navajo Nation EPA announced a pair of settlements with the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority to bring its wastewater treatment facility in Window Rock into compliance both with the federal Clean Water Act and the Navajo Nation Clean Water Act.

EPA’s agreement backs up a recent ground-breaking NNEPA settlement that required the NTUA to pay a $25,000 penalty. This is the first time that a tribally-owned entity has paid a penalty for violations of the Navajo Nation Clean Water Act. The NTUA has committed to bring the Window Rock facility into full compliance by December 31, 2015, or face additional penalties. NTUA has also agreed to build new infrastructure for the treatment plant at the site.

“For over 35 years we have partnered with the Navajo Nation to protect public health and the environment,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “EPA applauds the Navajo Nation EPA for its leadership in setting this precedent that protects the Nation’s precious water resources.”

“The Navajo Nation Clean Water Act was created to protect the public health and the environment. These laws must be complied with by everyone within the Navajo Nation,” said Dr. Donald Benn, Executive Director of NNEPA. “The Window Rock Facility was out of compliance for a long time, prompting NNEPA’s Water Quality program to initiate an enforcement action. The parties have reached an agreement and Navajo EPA appreciates the cooperation by NTUA to implement a long term goal for compliance.”

An EPA inspection revealed that since at least 2011 NTUA had been discharging pollutants above its permit limits to Black Creek, a tributary of the Puerco River that feeds into the Little Colorado River. Other violations of the NTUA’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit included its failure to submit complete and timely reports while inadequately operating and maintaining its existing treatment system. The plant collects and treats sanitary sewage from a population of about 13,300 in Apache County, Ariz., within the boundaries of the Navajo Nation.

The settlements require the NTUA to conduct sampling, submit quarterly reports, train and certify the plant’s operators, and hold regular compliance meetings with senior officials of EPA and NNEPA. The NTUA will also submit a plan for EPA and NNEPA’s approval for the construction of an entirely new treatment plant including a detailed schedule for commissioning and bringing the new facility on-line. Approximately $10 million in funding for the new facility was provided through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service Water and Waste Disposal Loans and Grants Program

For more information on EPA’s Clean Water Act NPDES program, please visit: http://water.epa.gov/polwaste/npdes/

For more information on EPA’s Region 9 Tribal Program, please visit: http://www.epa.gov/region9/tribal/

For more information on Navajo Nation EPA, please visit: http://navajonationepa.org/ or call the Administration Office for assistance at (928) 871-7692.

More Environmental Protection Agency coverage here

EPA Waters of the US rule — Colorado one of 13 states to file lawsuit #CleanWaterRules

Rainbow Falls Manitou Springs
Rainbow Falls Manitou Springs

From the Associated Press (James MacPherson) via The Durango Herald:

Thirteen states led by North Dakota and including Colorado filed a lawsuit Monday challenging an Obama administration rule that gives federal agencies authority to protect some streams, tributaries and wetlands under the Clean Water Act.

North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said the “Waters of the U.S.” rule by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers is a “federal power grab” that is “unnecessary and unlawful and will do nothing to increase water quality.”

The rule – a response to calls from the U.S. Supreme Court and Congress for the EPA to clarify which smaller waterways are protected – was published in the Federal Register on Monday and takes effect Aug. 28.

According to the EPA, the waters affected would be only those with a “direct and significant” connection to larger bodies of water downstream that are already protected. It says the aim is to protect the waters from pollution and development and to safeguard drinking water.

The EPA did not immediately respond to questions from The Associated Press.

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman said in a news release, “Water is perhaps the most critical resource Colorado manages, and we do it very well. EPA’s rule creates more confusion than clarity and unreasonably expands the federal government’s regulatory reach into our backyards, our farmers’ crop land and our ranchers’ acreage.”

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Bismarck, asks for the rule to be thrown out. The other states involved are Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, South Dakota and Wyoming.

Republicans in Congress, and some Democrats, including North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, also have backed legislation to block the rules.

More Environmental Protections Agency coverage here.

More waterways likely protected under new EPA rule — the High Country News #cleanwaterrules

Photo via Jon Harvey
Photo via Jon Harvey

From the High Country News (Elizabeth Shogren)

“Too many of our waters have been left vulnerable to pollution,” President Obama said in a statement. “This rule will provide the clarity and certainty businesses and industry need about which waters are protected by the Clean Water Act, and it will ensure polluters who knowingly threaten our waters can be held accountable.”

Congressional Republicans and some industry groups attacked the rule as an overreach by the administration that would hurt businesses and job growth.

But EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said given the impacts of climate change on water resources, such as drought in the West, “it’s more important than ever to protect the clean water that we have.”

Significantly for the arid West, the rule protects tributaries—no matter how frequently water flows in them—as long as they have signs of flow such as beds, banks and high water marks. Nearby wetlands and ponds also would be protected. Ditches would be protected only if they behave like tributaries…

Some regionally specific water bodies such as prairie potholes and western vernal pools in California would be protected, but most playas would not, according to McCarthy. Playas, flat desert basins that at times become shallow pools, would be covered only if they are within a 100-year floodplain, or are near or flow into a stream, its tributaries or adjacent wetlands…

Opponents and supporters of the rule differed over whether this action expands the scope of the Clean Water Act. Some ephemeral streams, waters and wetlands were federally protected before a 2001 Supreme Court decision, under the justification that migratory birds use them; the new rule, in practice, likely will increase the number of waters and wetlands that receive federal protection…

“For ecologists and people who care about ecosystems, it’s a big victory,” said Ellen Wohl, a professor of geosciences at Colorado State University. “There’s enormous scientific agreement that little streams are very important.”

Streams that do not contain water year-round still play important roles, providing nutrients, sand and organisms for bigger rivers.

“From an environmental perspective, it’s wonderful,” Wohl added. “Scientifically, it’s very obvious these streams need to be protected.”

At issue is whether companies and individuals have to get permits before they pollute, fill in or destroy a waterway or wetland. In the wake of the 2001 and 2006 Supreme Court rulings, decisions about whether permits were necessary often have been subject to lengthy case-by-case consideration. The new rule is supposed to make it clear when wetlands and waterways are protected so case-by-case determinations are needed only rarely.

More Environmental Protection Agency coverage here.

“Water is the foundation of life. What threatens that imperils us all” — NRDC

waterfromtap

From the Natural Resources Defense Council newsletter:

Today our country took one of its biggest steps ever to protect clean water with a new standard that restores safeguards to nearly two million miles of headwaters and streams and tens of millions of acres of wetlands.

Building on decades of successful water protections, the Clean Water Rule will defend sources of safe drinking water for one in every three Americans by clarifying protections that had come under challenge from some of the country’s biggest polluters.

The new rule is a victory for all of us, if we can keep it from being thwarted by its foes and their allies in Congress.

Republican leaders in the House and Senate have already teed up a showdown over this needed rule, a largely partisan battle that pits oil and gas companies, shopping center builders, Big Agriculture and others against the basic American right to clean water.

The Republican-led House sided earlier this month with the polluters.

We’re counting on the Senate to stand up for clean water.

For more than four decades, American waters have been protected by the Clean Water Act, passed by overwhelming Republican and Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress in 1972.

In recent years, though, this important law has come under withering attack by interests that stand to profit from weakening the protections the law provides.

In essence, these groups claim the Clean Water Act shouldn’t apply to vast reaches of streams and wetlands because these bodies of water are too remote, too small or too dependent on seasonal rains to count.

That, of course, is nonsense.

Even mighty rivers start small, taking on volume from wetlands and tributaries as water flows downhill.

Pollution at any point along the journey threatens all the waters downstream.

That’s why state and local officials, members of Congress, advocates for industry, agriculture, the environment and others, as well as members of the public at large, have asked the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers to clarify the reach of the Clean Water Act.

The agencies have participated in more than 400 meetings on the issue nationwide. Over just the past year, they’ve reviewed more than a million comments from people who depend on clean water for things like raising food, running their businesses, attracting tourism or fishing and hunting.

And here’s what they’ve found: 87 percent of the people who commented want the waters of America protected.

That’s exactly what the agencies have in mind with the Clean Water Rule, made final today.

Unless the polluters and their congressional allies get their way.

On May 12, the GOP-led House passed a bill to block the vital safeguards contained in the new Clean Water Rule — two weeks before the final rule was even issued.

The opponents didn’t need to see the final rule to vote against the measure, putting polluter profits first — and putting our drinking water at risk.

Similar legislation is pending in the Senate.

The Clean Water Rule, though, needs to go forward without further congressional obstruction or delay.

The rule’s protections will provide the country with up to $572 million worth of benefits every single year, the EPA estimates.

The wetlands and waterways this rule will defend help protect our communities from flooding. They filter industrial, agricultural and urban pollutants out of our water. They provide habitat for wildlife. And they help to recharge groundwater supplies.

Water is the foundation of life. What threatens that imperils us all.

We need our Senate to put our future first, put this pernicious legislation to bed and let the people who keep our water clean do the job we’re counting on them to do.

From email from American Rivers (Bob Irvin):

On Wednesday, thanks to the efforts of American Rivers and our partners and supporters, the Obama Administration released the Clean Water Rule, restoring protections to streams and wetlands that are drinking water sources for more than 1 in 3 Americans.

Few things are more fundamental to our health than clean water. You shouldn’t have to worry about pollution when you turn on the tap. This administration’s leadership in protecting our streams will benefit millions of Americans and our children and grandchildren.

Thank you for standing with American Rivers and speaking up for clean water. Because of your support, American Rivers was able to provide expert scientific analysis of the rule, educate key decision makers, and build a strong wave of public support nationwide.

The Clean Water Rule restores clear protection to 60 percent of the nation’s stream miles and millions of acres of wetlands that were historically protected by the Clean Water Act, but have lacked guaranteed safeguards for nearly a decade.

As we celebrate this victory we know our work isn’t done. Special interests and some members of Congress continue to try to dismantle the Clean Water Rule’s protections.

But we will do everything in our power to ensure these critical safeguards for our rivers remain. They are essential to the drinking water supplies for today’s communities, and future generations.

With your help, we will preserve this victory and build on our success, ensuring healthy rivers for all Americans nationwide.

More Environmental Protection Agency coverage here.

The Biggest Step for Clean Water in a Decade — Margie Alt

Trappers Lake
Trappers Lake

From The Blog: Huffington Post (Margie Alt):

The new rule has been a long time in the making. Citizens and activists have campaigned for more than half a century to win baseline protections for the rivers, lakes, and streams where we fish, swim, and get our drinking water.

In the late 1960’s, our water resources were in trouble. In Ohio, the Cuyahoga River caught on fire. Bacteria levels in the Hudson River were 170 times safe levels. Pollution from food processing plants in Florida killed a record 26 million fish. In all, two-thirds of the nation’s waters were too polluted for fishing or swimming.

Citizens and politicians of all stripes banded together in 1972 to pass the Clean Water Act, overcoming polluters who had used our waterways as their personal sewers with little to no consequence. The law declared that all waterways would be “fishable and swimmable” in the next decade.

Our waters got cleaner after the passage of the Clean Water Act. The rapid loss of our wetlands began to slow. From the Hudson, to the Charles, to the Great Lakes, to the Puget Sound, rivers and lakes began to be restored to health. The number of rivers and lakes clean enough for fishing and swimming doubled.

But too many developers, oil and gas companies, and industrial polluters were violating their permits. They filed lawsuits to weaken the Clean Water Act. They prevailed in the Supreme Court in 2001 and again in 2006, creating loopholes that left 20 million acres of wetlands and more than half of America’s streams without guaranteed protections under federal law.

The impact of the polluters’ court victory was real. One example: ProPublica reported that an oil company dumped thousands of gallons of crude oil into Edwards Creek in Texas, and the federal government couldn’t issue a fine, pursue legal action or even require cleanup. In a four-year span, the loophole prevented the U.S. EPA from moving forward with more than 1,500 investigations of companies that spilled oil, toxic chemicals and bacteria into streams, according to an analysis by The New York Times. Wetlands, once on the rebound, begin to disappear once more.

That’s why environmental groups, fishing and boating groups, elected officials and more began a decade-long push to restore protections to streams that feed drinking water supplies for one in every three Americans.

The Clean Water Act is on the verge of restoration. In March 2014, the Obama administration proposed a rule to close the Clean Water Act loophole and ensure protections for all of the nation’s waterways once and for all.

People rallied in support. Farmers, boaters, fishers, mayors, brewers, clean water groups and all manner of Americans delivered more than 800,000 comments in favor of the restored protections. Scientists weighed in with more than 1,000 studies, verifying that the health of the Chesapeake Bay, the Everglades and the Colorado River depends in part on the streams and wetlands that flow into them.

Now, the Clean Water Rule must get past the polluters who poked holes in the Clean Water Act in the first place: the developers who pave over our wetlands; the oil and gas companies that run thousands of miles of pipelines through our marshes; and the factory farms that dump manure into our streams.

And each of these challengers has allies in Congress who are more determined than ever to block clean water protections. The U.S. House has voted multiple times to overturn the Clean Water Rule, most recently two weeks ago. This summer, the Senate could vote to thwart the rule with a simple majority, setting up a veto battle with the president.

But with the backing of 80 percent of the voting public and your help, we can get the Clean Water Rule across the finish line, at last. Join us as we thank President Obama. Then tell your senators to choose clean water– for the sake of our rivers, lakes, and for our families’ health.

Here’s a release from Colorado Trout Unlimited (Randy Scholfield):

Anglers in Colorado support a new rule announced today that restores protections for America’s headwater streams under the Clean Water Act.

“The waters this rule protects are the sources of our nation’s coldest, cleanest water,” said Trout Unlimited President and CEO Chris Wood.

“Not only do they provide the needed spawning and rearing habitat for our trout and salmon, they are the sources of our iconic rivers and streams—they provide the water we all use downstream. The EPA and the Corps were right to craft this thoughtful rule in a way that protects our headwaters and our fish, but also protects the downstream uses of our nation’s water.”

Wood said the rule doesn’t require any new actions on the part of existing water users, but it does require anyone wishing to pursue a new development that impacts small streams to get a permit to do so.

The rule restores protections to America’s headwater streams that were removed after two politically charged Supreme Court decisions in the 2000s. The court ruled that there must be a proven nexus between these small, sometimes-intermittent waters and the larger rivers they feed in order for the former to receive Clean Water Act protections. Armed with the science that proves such a connection, the EPA and the Corps crafted this rule that simply protects the clean water sources of America’s rivers.

“Colorado is a headwaters state, and we understand the importance of protecting the sources of our great western rivers,” said David Nickum, executive director of Colorado Trout Unlimited. “The new rule restores long-standing protections to these small streams and wetlands, which ensure healthy waters downstream and support our state’s $9 billion outdoor recreation economy. Anglers understand that healthy rivers depend on healthy tributaries—this rule simply acknowledges that reality.”

“TU members in Colorado are grateful to the Corps, the EPA and the Obama administration for developing the new rule, and we are thankful to many members of Congress who have defended it from attack,” said Drew Peternell, director of TU’s Colorado Water Project. “The rule is the product of many months of consultation and input from Americans and Congress. The agencies listened to the concerns of diverse interests and found an approach that will ensure clean water for our communities,
industry, farms and ranches, and environment.”

“This is a rule for everyone,” Wood continued. “The most important thing this rule does is restore Clean Water Act protections to headwater streams, and that means the world to anglers who understand the importance of these waters to their success in the field. But these waters are important to everyone, not just anglers. If you turn on a tap, this rule helps make sure the water that comes out is clean and
fresh.”

More Environmental Protection Agency coverage here.

New federal rules on stream protection draw reactions — The Greeley Tribune #CleanWaterRules

longspeak

From The Greeley Tribune:

New federal rules designed to better protect small streams, tributaries and wetlands — and the drinking water of 117 million Americans — are being criticized by Republicans and farm groups as going too far.

The White House says the rules, issued Wednesday, will provide much-needed clarity for landowners about which waterways must be protected against pollution and development. But House Speaker John Boehner declared they will send “landowners, small businesses, farmers, and manufacturers on the road to a regulatory and economic hell.”

Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., released a similar statement Wednesday, calling the rules widely opposed and terribly harmful to the economy of rural Colorado.

However, northern Colorado farmer and president of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union Kent Peppler called the rules common sense in a news release the same day.

The rules, issued by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, aim to clarify which smaller waterways fall under federal protection after two Supreme Court rulings left the reach of the Clean Water Act uncertain. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the waters affected would be only those with a “direct and significant” connection to larger bodies of water downstream that are already protected.

“I’m furious that the President has once again taken unilateral action that is widely opposed by business and agriculture alike,” Buck said in his statement. “He is out of control, and I will do everything in my power to rein him in.

“WOTUS is terribly harmful for the economy of rural Colorado and a disaster for small business across America.”

Peppler, however, had a different reaction.

“Clean water is essential for farmers and ranchers, and for the production of healthful food,” he said in a news release. “The Administration’s new Clean Water Rule again protects upstream water sources and downstream producers, and ensures reliable, clean water for our farms and families. This rule also continues existing exemptions for day-to-day farm operations. This is common-sense rulemaking.”

The Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006 left 60 percent of the nation’s streams and millions of acres of wetlands without clear federal protection, according to EPA, causing confusion for landowners and government officials.

The new rules would kick in and force a permitting process only if a business or landowner took steps to pollute or destroy covered waters.

EPA says the rules will help landowners understand exactly which waters fall under the Clean Water Act. For example, a tributary must show evidence of flowing water to be protected — such as a bank or a high water mark.

President Barack Obama said that while providing that clarity for business and industry, the rules “will ensure polluters who knowingly threaten our waters can be held accountable.”

Rocky Mountain Farmers Union members worked with EPA during the comment period. Farmers and ranchers from Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming voiced their concerns and recommendations on how the rules might help, or hurt, farmers and ranchers, according to the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union. “We were at the table during this process,” Peppler said in the new release. “Others who chose to fight EPA at every step failed to address the much bigger issue: EPA has responsibility to protect America’s water supply from being harmed by the irresponsible actions of landowners and corporations.”

“While the new rule is not perfect, it will restore an overdue measure of certainty for farmers and ranchers,” he said.

There is deep opposition from the Republican-led Congress and from farmers and other landowners concerned that every stream, ditch and puddle on their private land could now be subject to federal oversight. The House voted to block the regulations earlier this month, and a Senate panel is planning to consider a similar bill this summer.

House Speaker Boehner called the rules “a raw and tyrannical power grab.”

EPA’s McCarthy has acknowledged the proposed regulations last year were confusing, and she said the final rules were written to be clearer. She said the regulations don’t create any new permitting requirements for agriculture and even add new exemptions for artificial lakes and ponds and water-filled depressions from construction, among other features.

These efforts were “to make clear our goal is to stay out of agriculture’s way,” McCarthy and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy said in a blog on the EPA website.

The American Farm Bureau Federation has led opposition to the rules, saying they could make business more difficult for farmers. The group said Wednesday that it would wait to review the final rules before responding.

The agriculture industry has been particularly concerned about the regulation of drainage ditches on farmland. The EPA and Army Corps said the only ditches that would be covered under the rule are those that look, act and function like tributaries and carry pollution downstream.

Another farm group, the National Farmers Union, said it still has some concerns about the impact on farmers but is pleased with the increased clarity on ditches, “removing a gray area that has caused farmers and ranchers an incredible amount of concern.”

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

The federal government Wednesday finalized a long-anticipated rule that would ramp up protection against pollution of streams, wetlands and other waterways — winning praise but also igniting opposition.

This Clean Water Rule is meant to clarify federal power, particularly in Western states such as Colorado, where 68 percent of streams are seasonal ones for which protection has been uncertain.

The rule, announced by Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy, won’t require new permits, she said, but it gives federal officials jurisdiction to crack down on polluters.

“This rule will make it easier to identify protected waters,” McCarthy said in a conference call with reporters. “This rule will not get in the way of agriculture.”

But some Colorado farmers and a national coalition of industry groups oppose it. They’ve asked Congress to intervene and are considering legal challenges.

EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regulators “are saying that if somebody decides that what you are doing on your land has an impact on what they call ‘waters of the United States,’ then the EPA has jurisdiction. If a private citizen complains about it, the EPA has a duty and responsibility to investigate and pursue the case,” Colorado Farm Bureau president Don Shawcroft said. “It means the EPA potentially is looking over our shoulder about everything we do — even for small seasonal streams and during heavy rain.”

EPA officials said 68 percent of streams in Colorado are seasonal or rain-dependent and that these now will be protected as long as they show signs of flowing and affect downstream waters.

The rule is designed to end uncertainty created by Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006 that left small streams, headwaters and wetlands in limbo.

Those decisions suggested that waterways not entirely within one state, creeks that only contain water at certain times of year, and lakes not linked to larger water systems might not qualify as “navigable waters” and might not be covered under the 1972 Clean Water Act. The concern is that pollution of flowing waterways can make its way into sources of drinking water.

Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet on Wednesday didn’t take a position. Bennet “looks forward to reviewing this new rule and hopes it will be workable for Colorado,” a Bennet spokesman said. “He’s heard from farmers and ranchers, sportsmen, water providers and local governments who are all asking for the certainty a balanced rule can provide.”

While farm bureaus decried EPA overreach, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union president Kent Peppler called the rule a common-sense approach to protecting upstream water and downstream producers of food.

From Western Slope Now (Travis Khachatoorian):

Dozens of Colorado organizations and leaders are polarized in their opinions just moments after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a new rule that would protect hundreds of West Slope streams from pollution…

Environmentalists such as Conservation Colorado and Environment Colorado have hailed the decision as a victory.

“President Obama’s Clean Water Rule re-establishes important protections that fight pollution and keep Colorado’s drinking water, rivers, wetlands and tributaries clean,” said the executive director of Conservation Colorado in a press release.

But the issue is quickly dividing the political landscape. On the other side of the river, Colorado Senator Cory Gardner and West Slope Representative Scott Tipton have denounced the plan as a federal encroachment on water rights.

“This rule represents a massive expansion of federal power and puts the EPA in a ludicrous position of acting as the main regulator of ponds, ditches, and even intermittent streams across the country, said Sen. Gardner in a press release.

There are approximately 77 significant streams in Mesa County and Montrose County.

There’s still a 60 day waiting period before the Clean Water Rule would go into effect. The Republican controlled U.S. House has already passed a bill that would strip the new authority from the EPA.

From Conservation Colorado (Chris Arend):

Conservation Colorado Executive Director Pete Maysmith released the following statement on the Obama Administration issuing the “Clean Water Rule”, which re-establishes critical clean water protections for America’s rivers and streams:

“Today is an important day for Colorado’s most precious resource— our water. President Obama’s Clean Water Rule re-establishes important protections that fight pollution and keep Colorado’s drinking water, rivers, wetlands and tributaries clean. Coloradans cherish their clean water and understand that it is critical to our economy. Protecting the health of our children and grandchildren who drink, swim, and play in our waterways is vital to Colorado’s future. Recent polling shows that over 85% of voters support these new clean water rules which will protect the water of 1 in 3 Americans. We congratulate President Obama for restoring these important protections and standing up for healthy, clean water.”

Here’s the release from the EPA and USACE (Gina McCarthy/Jo-Ellen Darcy):

Today, EPA and the Army finalized a rule under the Clean Water Act to protect the streams and wetlands we depend on for our health, our economy, and our way of life.

The Clean Water Act has protected our health for more than 40 years—and helped our nation clean up hundreds of thousands of miles of waterways that were choked by industrial pollution, untreated sewage, and garbage for decades.

But Supreme Court cases in 2001 and 2006 put protection of 60 percent of our nation’s streams and millions of acres of wetlands into question. At the same time, we understand much more today about how waters connect to each other than we did in decades past. Scientists, water quality experts, and local water managers are better able than ever before to pinpoint the waters that impact our health and the environment the most.

Members of Congress, farmers, ranchers, small business owners, hunters, anglers, and the public have called on EPA and the Army to make a rule to clarify where the Clean Water Act applies, and bring it in line with the law and the latest science. Today, we’re answering that call.

Every lake and every river depends on the streams and wetlands that feed it—and we can’t have healthy communities downstream without healthy headwaters upstream. The Clean Water Rule will protect streams and wetlands and provide greater clarity and certainty to farmers, all without creating any new permitting requirements for agriculture and while maintaining all existing exemptions and exclusions.

The agencies did extensive outreach on the Clean Water Rule, hosting more than 400 meetings across the country and receiving more than a million public comments. EPA officials visited farms in Arizona, Colorado, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Vermont.

Our nation’s original conservationists—our farmers, ranchers, and foresters—were among the most crucial voices who weighed in during this process. Farmers have a critical job to do; our nation depends on them for food, fiber, and fuel, and they depend on clean water for their livelihoods.

Normal farming and ranching—including planting, harvesting, and moving livestock—have long been exempt from Clean Water Act regulation, and the Clean Water Rule doesn’t change that. It respects producers’ crucial role in our economy and respects the law. We’d like give a few more specifics on our final rule, starting with what it doesn’t do.

  • The rule doesn’t add any new permitting requirements for agriculture.
  • It doesn’t protect new kinds of waters that the Clean Water Act didn’t historically cover. It doesn’t regulate most ditches and excludes groundwater, shallow subsurface flows, and tile drains. And it doesn’t change policy on irrigation or water transfers.
  • It doesn’t touch land use or private property rights. The Clean Water Rule only deals with the pollution and destruction of waterways.
  • Again, our rule doesn’t touch long-standing Clean Water Act exemptions and exclusions for agriculture. It specifically recognizes the crucial role farmers play and actually adds exclusions for features like artificial lakes and ponds, water-filled depressions from construction, and grass swales.
  • What the rule does is simple: it protects clean water, and it provides clarity on which waters are covered by the Clean Water Act so they can be protected from pollution and destruction.

    Feedback from the agricultural community led us to define tributaries more clearly. The rule is precise about the streams being protected so that it can’t be interpreted to pick up erosion in a farmer’s field. The rule says a tributary has to show physical features of flowing water to warrant protection.

    We also got feedback that our proposed definition of ditches was confusing. We’re only interested in the ones that act like tributaries and could carry pollution downstream—so we changed the definition in the final rule to focus on tributaries. So ditches that are not constructed in streams and that flow only when it rains are not covered.

    We’ve also provided certainty in how far safeguards extend to nearby waters—the rule sets physical, measurable limits for the first time. For example, an adjacent water is protected if it’s within the 100-year floodplain and within 1,500 feet of a covered waterway. By setting bright lines, agricultural producers and others will know exactly where the Clean Water Act applies, and where it doesn’t.

    Farmers and ranchers work hard every day to feed America and the world. In this final rule, we’ve provided additional certainty that they’ll retain all of their Clean Water Act exemptions and exclusions—so they can continue to do their jobs, and continue to be conservation leaders.

    We appreciate everyone’s input as we’ve worked together to finalize a Clean Water Rule that keeps pollution out of our water, while providing the additional clarity our economy needs. Learn more with this fact sheet.

    More Environmental Protection Agency coverage here.