WASHINGTON, D.C.—The nation's anglers stand firmly behind a new clean water rule that will protect America's headwater streams from unchecked development while still allowing reasonable leeway when it comes to water use by agriculture and industry all across the country.
"The waters this rule protects are the sources of our nation's coldest, cleanest water," said Trout Unlimited President and CEO Chris Wood. "Not only do these waters provide the needed spawning and rearing waters for our trout and salmon, they are the sources of our iconic rivers and streams—they provide the water we all use downstream. The EPA and the Corps were right to craft this thoughtful rule in a way that protects our headwaters and our fish, but also protects the downstream uses of our nation's water."
The rule doesn't add new, onerous regulations or a burdensome permitting process for those wishing to develop land in headwater watersheds. Rather, it restores protections to America's headwater streams under the Clean Water Act that were removed after two politically charged Supreme Court decisions in the 2000s.
The court ruled that there must be a proven nexus between these small, sometimes-intermittent waters and the larger rivers they feed. Armed with the science that proves such a connection, the EPA and the Corps crafted this rule that simply protects the clean-water sources of America's rivers. "This rule was crafted through a very thorough process, one in which nearly a million Americans participated," Wood said. "The vast majority of Americans support the rule and the protection of our country's headwater streams because they understand the need to protect our priceless water resources. And in a time of drought and a changing climate, these resources are even more precious—it's not just about clean water, it's about having enough water to meet the needs of all Americans."
What's more, both agencies took the constructive criticism offered by a number of concerned interests—including agriculture, forestry and members of Congress—over the last year and incorporated key changes it into the final rule to clarify some of its key provisions.
Essentially, existing exemptions for uses of water for agricultural and forestry purposes remain intact and are clarified for emphasis—the new rule does not regulate every farm pond or farm ditch found on private land, as some have contended.
TU members and anglers across the nation are grateful to the Corps, the EPA and the Obama Administration for developing the new rule, and to many members of Congress who have defended it from Congressional attack.
"It has not been an easy job, to say the least," said Steve Moyer, TU's vice president of government affairs. "Whether friend or foe of the old proposal, TU calls on all interests to carefully scrutinize the final rule. When a good-faith assessment of it is done, we believe we'll find a lot to like in service of settling this vexing issue for the long run."
"This is a rule for everyone," Wood continued. "The most important thing this rule does is restore Clean Water Act protections to headwater streams, and that means the world to anglers who understand the importance of these waters to their success in the field. But these waters are important to everyone, not just anglers. If you turn on a tap, this rule helps make sure the water that comes out is clean and fresh."
Trout Unlimited is the nation's oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring North America's trout and salmon and their watersheds. Follow TU on Facebook and Twitter, and visit us online at www.tu.org.