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October 3rd, 2017
By Heather Nix
There have been a lot of misconceptions about the Clean Water Rule, which the EPA is considering rolling back. Upstate Forever works closely with utilities, landowners, and municipalities to protect the critical waters of Upstate South Carolina, and we believe the Clean Water Rule is an essential tool to prevent confusion and to ensure the health of our waterways. Below, we’ve laid out some of the common myths about the Rule, and provided accurate information.
Myth: “The Clean Water Rule created confusion.”
Truth: On the contrary, the Rule is a response to confusion created by Supreme Court decisions and the Rule provides more clarity than ever before by clearly defining how it is to be applied.
As a result of the Supreme Court’s split decision in the Rapanos case (2006), Justice Scalia issued an opinion indicating that streams and wetlands with a “significant nexus” to navigable waters should be considered Waters of the US. The blurry distinction left it up to individual US Army Corps of Engineer (ACOE) Districts to interpret what constituted a “significant nexus” – and led to complications and uncertainty for developers, consultants, and regulators over which waters were protected.
The Rule was created following a lengthy public involvement process that took into account over one million comments.
The Clean Water Rule:
Myth: “Protecting small streams isn’t important.”
Truth: Small “headwater” streams join to create rivers and lakes and the health of the small streams dictates the health of larger water bodies.
Like the capillaries that connect to our arteries, the health of small streams and wetlands is critical to the health of our nation’s rivers, providing key benefits in the form of clean water, flood control, food supply, habitat, and biodiversity. If we want clean water for drinking, fishing, recreation, and industrial uses we MUST protect headwater streams.
Myth: “The Clean Water Rule is too broad and will protect ‘puddles and ditches.’”
Truth: The Rule explicitly states exclusions, including features that serve only to convey rainwater or are entirely man-made.
The Clean Water Rule specifically excludes:
Myth: “The 2015 Clean Water Rule was a power grab that significantly expanded waterways considered ‘Waters of the US’ and would make it more difficult to farm or change a farming operation to remain competitive and profitable.”
Truth: The Clean Water Rule sets a clear standard that actually constricts the jurisdiction of the EPA under the Clean Water Act. The Rule also continues previous exemptions, including those for farming and forestry.
The Clean Water Rule restates exemptions for:
Myth: “The Clean Water Rule has slowed development and reduced job opportunities.”
Truth: The rule actually increases predictability for developers and simplifies the permitting process by removing subjectivity and confusion from decisions on what qualifies as WOTUS.
Additionally, clean water fuels tremendous economic development ($887 billion in annual spending) and 7.6 million jobs. Paddling, hunting, and fishing drive much of this – and all rely on healthy wetlands and headwater streams to provide clean water, strong fish stocks, and healthy game animal populations. Clean water also lowers treatment costs for drinking water and industrial facilities.
Please contact your state legislators and tell them clean water is important to you. Ask them to tell the EPA that they support the Clean Water Rule, and that any changes should follow the same procedures that were used to create it.
Heather Nix is Upstate Forever's Clean Water Director and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.