EPA Report: Small Streams, Wetlands Critical for Water Quality Nationwide
Sportsmen’s organizations applaud EPA’s final science report that will guide a rule clarifying the Clean Water Act’s role in protecting streams and wetlands
After years of study, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a final science report entitled, Connectivity of Streams and Wetlands to Downstream Waters: A Review and Synthesis of the Scientific Evidence.
This report scientifically documents the connection between smaller wetlands and streams to larger waters, incorporating the recommendations of two dozen of the nation’s leading hydrologists and biologists.
"There’s a reason this document is more than 400 pages long. There is a lot of research to back up the concept that protecting smaller streams and wetlands will protect water quality in our nation’s rivers, lakes and bays," said Jan Goldman-Carter, National Wildlife Federation’s senior manager for wetlands and water resources. "The science supports what a bipartisan Congress understood four decades ago when it passed the Clean Water Act."
Representatives of hunting and fishing organizations hailed the new report as a step towards protecting the nation’s streams and wetlands—key habitats for many species.
"For sportsmen, clean water is integral for access to quality days in the field. Simply put, cleaner water equals better hunting and fishing. That’s why we care about the ongoing process to clarify clean water protections for wetlands and headwater streams," said Jimmy Hague, the director of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s Center for Water Resources. "Today’s release of the final report on the chemical, physical and biological connections between water bodies is an important step in the nearly 15-year-long effort to resolve the confusion over which waters are – and are not – covered by the Clean Water Act.”
Importantly, the final report modifies EPA’s earlier understatement of the connections between non-floodplain wetlands and downstream waters. The panel of scientists reviewing EPA’s draft report strongly recommended that EPA properly reflect the importance of systems such as the prairie potholes of the Dakotas, the Carolina bays of the East Coast and the playa lakes of Texas and the southern Great Plains.
The EPA is currently finalizing a rule that will clarify which waters are considered “waters of the United States” and therefore eligible for Clean Water Act protections. The rule under consideration would restore protections to certain smaller streams and wetlands that are currently in a sort of legal limbo.
"Simply put, the Clean Water Act cannot work well if there is confusion about which waters are protected by its provisions and which are not," said Steve Moyer, vice president for government affairs at Trout Unlimited. "This report will help the agencies in making these vital determinations."