The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) recently voiced concerns about how Waters of the United States (WOTUS) were defined under a 2020 rule. They issued a proposed federal rulemaking notice to redefine these waters under the Navigable Waters Protection Rule. This is significant in that it establishes the scope of federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act (CWA) and includes CWA programs, water quality standards, and sections of the Clean Water Act that address navigable waters. Many of the CWA programs and the protections they afford only apply to these WOTUS-defined waters, and many state programs are not robust enough to ensure adequate protections without them.
The Federation urges EPA and USACE to build off of past failures to produce a new rule that is scientifically and ecologically sound. It should adequately protect our nation’s waters, including groundwater that West Tennessee relies upon as its source for drinking water, isolated wetlands, and all types of streams so that waters remain fishable, swimmable, drinkable, and provide healthy wildlife habitats for future generations. While working on a new rule, the agencies will refer to the pre-2015 rule.
Photo credit: Heather Saunders