From: JoAnne Himebaugh

Nashville

Currently the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Scott Pruitt, pending public input, intends to repeal a 2015 clean water rule known as Waters of the United States (WOTUS). WOTUS is the result of Supreme Court decisions made in 2001 and 2006 in which the courts were divided on their interpretation of the Clean Water Act (CWA). The cases were sent back to the lower courts, and confusion, unpredictability and inconsistencies have resulted in subsequent court cases regarding waters protected under CWA.

The Waters of the United States rule:

  • Clearly defines and protects tributaries that impact the health of downstream waters
  • Provides certainty in how far safeguards extend to nearby waters
  • Protects the nation’s regional water treasures
  • Focuses on streams, not ditches
  • Maintains the status of waters within municipal separate storm sewer systems
  • Reduces the use of case-specific analysis of waters

The rule protects clean water without getting in the way of farming, ranching and forestry. It does not interfere with or change private property rights or address land use. It does not regulate most ditches, groundwater, shallow subsurface flows or tile drains. It does not change policy on irrigation or water transfers. It does not apply to rills, gullies or erosional features. The rule only protects waters that have historically been covered by the CWA.

The health of rivers, lakes, bays and coastal waters is dependent on the health of the wetlands and streams from which they are fed. Not having clear definition of the waters protected under CWA puts the health of our communities and the strength of our economy at risk. WOTUS provides a level of certainty and predictability allowing agencies to fully carry out their responsibilities under CWA.

I would encourage readers to speak out for our water by visiting: epa.gov/wotus-rule/about-waters-united-states. Public input will be accepted until Sept. 27. Future generations depend on us to protect their inheritance.