COLORADO SPRINGS, JAN 23, 2020 -- The Trump administration unveiled its final replacement for the Waters of the US (WOTUS) rule today, eliminating protection for over 50% of US wetlands and many ephemeral streams.
At an event at the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum, U.S. EPA Region 8 Regional Administrator Gregory Sopkin and Lt. Col. Robin Scott, Deputy Commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)-Albuquerque District, announced the changes.
According to a statement by the EPA, “The rule provides a new, clear definition for ‘waters of the United States’ (WOTUS) — delivering on President Trump’s promise to finalize a revised definition for “waters of the United States” that protects the nation’s navigable waters from pollution and will result in economic growth across the country.”
Critics argue the changes will set the U.S. further back, replealing protections guaranteed by the Clean Water Act.
“This is not just undoing the clean water rule promulgated by the Obama administration. This is going back to the lowest level of protection we’ve seen in the last 50 years,” Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, told The Hill. “This is a staggering rollback.”
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the new Navigable Waters Protection Rule “strikes the proper balance between Washington and the states in managing land and water resources while protecting our nation’s navigable waters, and it does so within the authority Congress provided.”
The revised definition identifies four clear categories of waters that are federally regulated under the Clean Water Act: the territorial seas and traditional navigable waters; perennial and intermittent tributaries; certain lakes, ponds, and impoundments; and wetlands that are adjacent to jurisdictional waters. These four categories protect the nation’s navigable waters and the core tributary systems that flow into those waters. For example, the new rule helps ensure that traditional navigable waters, like the South Platte River and Cherry Creek; perennial tributaries, such as Monument Creek, which flows into Fountain Creek and then the Arkansas River; intermittent tributaries such as East Creek which flows into the Gunnison River on the west slope; certain lakes, ponds, and impoundments, such as Lake Quivira on Silver Creek; and wetlands that are adjacent to jurisdictional waters are protected.
This final action also details what waters are not subject to federal control, including features that only contain water in direct response to rainfall; groundwater; many ditches, including most farm and roadside ditches; prior converted cropland; farm and stock watering ponds; and waste treatment systems.
According to The Hill, Betsy Southerland, who was director of the Office of Science and Technology at the EPA’s Office of Water under the Obama administration, called the new rule “scientifically indefensible and socially unjust,” forcing communities to pick up the cost of controlling pollution from miners, oil and gas producers and land developers."
Several state attorneys general, with the support of environmental groups, are likely to sue the Trump administration over the measure, according to the Huffington Post..