Please Help Save Federal Wetlands Protections
The Clean Water Act (CWA) is a federal law to "restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation's waters." The CWA protects Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) from pollution by prohibiting unregulated discharges. The definition of WOTUS has been modified over time. In February 2017, the President issued an Executive Order calling for review of WOTUS to keep the nation's navigable waters free of pollution while also promoting economic growth, minimizing regulatory uncertainty, and allowing both Congress and the States to fulfill their historic roles. A rule signed in December 2018 was published in the Federal Register earlier this year.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) are accepting comments on the rule until April 15, 2019 (Monday). As written, the new rule will reduce the types of waterbodies considered WOTUS, which would result in fewer waters qualifying for federal protection under the Clean Water Act. The most recent rule amends, and from an environmental perspective, weakens, a rule from 2015.
Currently, due to a series of lawsuits that followed the 2015 rule, only 22 U.S. states are following the standards of the 2015 rule, while the other 28 are implementing the pre-2015 rule. Florida is among the states using the pre-2015 rule. This will continue until February 2020, when the newly signed rule will go into effect.
What You Can Do:
Please submit a comment online by Monday, April 15th.
The preferred method is via the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Click the following link: https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=EPA-HQ-OW-2018-0149-0003. Then click the blue "Comment Now" box in the upper right hand corner of the page to submit your comments.
Comments can also be emailed to OW-Docket@epa.gov, with the Docket ID Number in the Subject line: EPA–HQ–OW– 2018–0149
Sample/Suggested Comment Language:
To Whom It May Concern:
I oppose the revised definition of "Waters of the United States," which removes Clean Water Act protection for ecologically-important ephemeral wetlands that purify our drinking water and provide fish and wildlife habitat, flood protection, stormwater treatment, and pollution control. The proposed changes undermine the intention of the Clean Water Act to "restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation's waters." I urge the Administration to amend this proposal.
Wetlands are often ephemeral, so their physical and biological features are key to their characterization. I suggest that the definition of intermittent may need to be expanded to encompass at least some of what are currently characterized as ephemeral wetlands. The idea of a significant nexus that could be more explicitly defined to avoid case by case basis review should be considered. A wetland with significant influence over a primary water should not be excluded from WOTUS and the Clean Water Act. Ecological connections are very relevant to the purpose of this rule and should be considered.
For More Information:
Four Things to Know About US EPA’s Draft WOTUS
St. Mary's University Spatial Analysis
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Thank you for all you do to help protect manatees and their aquatic habitat!