More than half of the miles of streams in the United States only have water flowing in them after it rains. But these intermittent creeks can contribute a significant amount of water pollution to rivers, lakes, and bays downstream, including the Chesapeake. So it is important that these smaller waterways be covered by the federal Clean Water Act, so that wildlife, outdoor recreation, and drinking water supplies are protected.
Unfortunately, murky U.S. Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006 -- and subsequent interpretations by the Bush Administration -– effectively stripped Clean Water Act protections from not only many intermittent streams, but also isolated lakes, ponds, and wetlands.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers sought to clear up the confusion about what waterways are protected by the law. Under proposed new regulations, most seasonal and rain-dependent streams will be protected, as well as wetlands that are near streams and rivers, according to EPA.
“We are clarifying protection for the upstream waters that are absolutely vital to downstream communities,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “Clean water is essential to every single American, from families who rely on safe places to swim and healthy fish to eat, to farmers who need abundant and reliable sources of water to grow their crops, to hunters and fishermen who depend on healthy waters for recreation and their work, and to businesses that need a steady supply of water for operations.”