Waters of the United States
- Reduces confusion about Clean Water Act protection
Determining when the Clean Water Act protected streams and wetlands became confusing and complex following Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006.
- Clarifies types of waters covered under Clean Water Act
Specifically, the proposed rule clarifies that under the Clean Water Act:
- • Most seasonal and rain-dependent streams are protected.
- • Wetlands near rivers and streams are protected.
- • Other types of waters may have more uncertain connections with downstream water and protection will be evaluated through a case specific analysis of whether the connection is or is not significant. However, to provide more certainty, the proposal requests comment on options protecting similarly situated waters in certain geographic areas or adding to the categories of waters protected without case specific analysis.
- Saves businesses time and money
The proposed rule will benefit businesses by increasing efficiency in determining coverage of the Clean Water Act.
- Provides more benefits to public than costs
The proposed rule would provide an estimated $388 million to $514 million annually of benefits to the public, including reducing flooding, filtering pollution, providing wildlife habitat, supporting hunting and fishing, and recharging groundwater. The public benefits significantly outweigh the costs of about $162 million to $278 million per year for mitigating impacts to streams and wetlands, and taking steps to reduce pollution to waterways.
- Helps states to protect their waters
- Streams and wetlands benefit communities
Streams and wetlands trap floodwaters, recharge groundwater supplies, remove pollution, and provide habitat for fish and wildlife.
- Streams and wetlands are economic drivers
Streams and wetlands play an important role in fishing, hunting, agriculture, recreation, energy, and manufacturing.
- Upstream waters impact downstream waters
About 60 percent of stream miles in the U.S. only flow seasonally or after rain, but have a huge impact on the downstream waters.
- Streams provide drinking water for 1 in 3 people
Approximately 117 million people- one in three Americans- get drinking water from public systems that rely on seasonal, rain-dependent, and headwater streams.
- Does not protect any new types of waters
The proposed rule does not protect any new types of waters that have not historically been covered under the Clean Water Act.
- Does not broaden coverage of Clean Water Act
The proposed rule is consistent with the Supreme Court's more narrow reading of Clean Water Act jurisdiction.
- Does not regulate groundwater
- Does not expand jurisdiction over ditches
The rule actually proposes to reduce jurisdiction and exclude certain ephemeral and intermittent ditches.
- Input from agriculture community shaped the proposal
For the past three years, EPA and the Army Corps have listened to important input from the agriculture community. Using the input from those discussions, the agencies then worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ensure that concerns raised by farmers and the agricultural industry were addressed.
- Exemptions and exclusions are preserved
All agricultural exemptions and exclusions from Clean Water Act requirements that have existed for nearly 40 years have been retained with clarification.
- Over 50 conservation practices exempt from permitting
Through coordination with USDA, EPA and the Army Corps have ensured that 56 conservation practices that protect or improve water quality will not be subject to Clean Water Act dredge and fill permitting requirements.
- Notice or permit not needed for certain NRCS practices
Farmers and producers will be able to undertake the specific conservation practices without notification or permitting by ensuring that practices benefit water quality and are in accordance with Natural Resources Conservation Service standards.
- Rulemaking was requested by many stakeholders
For nearly a decade, members of Congress, state and local officials, industry, agriculture, environmental groups, and the public have asked for a rulemaking to provide clarity.
- Enforcement of the law has been challenging
- Supported by the latest peer-reviewed science
This includes a draft scientific assessment by EPA titled Connectivity of Streams and Wetlands to Downstream Waters, which presents a review and synthesis of more than 1,000 pieces of scientific literature. The rule will not be finalized until the final version of this scientific assessment is complete.
- Agencies have consulted with stakeholders
EPA and the Army Corps consulted extensively with stakeholders for the past several years.
- Public input was considered
The agencies carefully considered about 415,000 comments received since the Supreme Court decisions.
- Outreach is underway across the country
The agencies are launching a robust outreach effort, holding discussions around the country and gathering input needed to shape a final rule.
- Submit your comments
The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on Monday, April 21, 2014. The public comment period will close on Friday, November 14, 2014.