County Commissioners Urge President Obama to Protect America’s Waters

Commissioners want to finalize clean water guidance to protect the health, safety and welfare of citizens

06-04-2012 // Jan Goldman-Carter

Over the last 18 months, scores of county leaders from across the country have repeatedly called upon the Obama Administration to restore longstanding Clean Water Act protections for America’s wetlands, lakes, and streams.  Today, the National Wildlife Federation and the Conservation Leaders Network released a list of 114 county leaders who have sent letters or passed resolutions urging the Administration to finalize its clean water guidance and proceed with a more lasting rulemaking.

In just the past few months, 45 County Commissioners from 17 different states have requested that President Obama move quickly to finalize the Administration’s clean water guidance and protect America’s wetlands and streams to ensure clean water, safe communities, and healthy habitats. Finalizing the clean water guidance is an important first step in clearly restoring protections for the nation’s small streams that feed the public drinking water supplies for 117 million Americans.

“As county leaders in Western Colorado, we are on the front line in protecting the health, safety and welfare of citizens,” said Gunnison County Chairperson, Hap Channell. “In our semi-arid environment, water is our life’s blood, and its quality is paramount to protecting and assuring our economy, lifestyle, and future. Without pristine, clean water we, quite frankly, have nothing.”

Noting the “Everglades to our west and the Atlantic coral reef system to our east,” Broward County, Florida Vice Mayor Kristin Jacobs wrote, “As a community, we understand the importance of protecting water quality and maintaining healthy watersheds to ensure clean and safe drinking water supplies, the integrity of our sensitive natural systems, and prized recreational opportunities.  We understand the inextricable link between a healthy environment and economic prosperity, and that inadequate protections today only defer and amplify the later environmental and economic costs.”

Walter Marshall, Forsyth County North Carolina Commissioner joined many of his fellow county commissioners in writing, “Clean and safe drinking water supplies are a particular concern to us. While we are pleased that your administration has proposed guidelines to protect these waters, we need you to finalize that document right away. Furthermore, to make these protections more robust and durable, it is essential to propose and finalize a rule in 2012. Doing so will give our waterways – both large and small – the protection they need for many years to come.”

County commissioners also made repeated calls for action in 2011. In January 2011, 42 County Commissioners from 16 different states sent similar letters to the Council on Environmental Quality, urging the Administration to revise and finalize the definition of “waters of the United States.”  And in the summer of 2011, 83 County Commissioners from 21 states submitted comments in support of the Clean Water Act guidance.  Each time, the message was the same: Finalizing the Clean Water Act guidance and initiating a clean water rulemaking demonstrates this Administration’s commitment to clean water and is a much needed step toward restoring protections to millions of miles of streams and rivers, and millions of acres of wetlands that Americans cherish and rely on.

“All told, 114 county leaders from 25 states have spoken out on the importance to their communities of broad and effective Clean Water Act protections,” said Jan Goldman-Carter, NWF Senior Manager, Wetlands and Water Resources.   “As a former county commissioner representing a rural Oregon county, I understand the importance of bringing county leaders together to speak out for clean water,” explained Peg Reagan, the Conservation Leaders Network’s Executive Director. “County officials see first-hand the importance of protecting clean water, yet individually our voices are not always heard in Washington, D.C.”  

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