S. 787: Clean Water Restoration Act

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

The groups, including the Izaak Walton League of America and the National Wildlife Federation said Wednesday such unregulated pollution could contaminate drinking water for more than 620,000 people living in Larimer, Weld and Boulder counties. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency agrees water contamination from future mining and development could go unregulated in the headwaters of some streams in the region. Pollution could threaten drinking water here because most of the county’s water supply comes from rivers fed by streams that can’t be regulated because they can’t be navigated by boat, the groups said.

Scott Kovarovics of the Izaak Walton League said if someone wants to pollute a dry stream, the law might allow that. The concern stems from a 2006 U.S. Supreme Court decision limiting the kinds of streams that can be protected under the Clean Water Act. According to the EPA, only those rivers and streams that affect interstate commerce – those people that can navigate by boat or are connected to such streams – are protected by the act. Excluded from protection are streams, possibly including some high in the mountains, that flow less than a few months each year and exist on private land or don’t flow into a stream that people can navigate with a boat. “We should be concerned about those (streams) because those areas are where we have a lot of our snowmelt,” said Dick Clark, wetland coordinator for the EPA in Denver…

Generally, Clark said, streams on public land are protected, and so are high mountain streams that either flow all year long or most of the year. Unregulated contamination could flow downstream from private land being mined high in the mountains, he said…

The number of streams that aren’t regulated in Larimer County aren’t known because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which determines whether federal regulations apply to certain streams, doesn’t keep track of them, said Tim Carey, chief of the Corps’ Denver regulatory office. Only two streams in Colorado have ever been determined not to fall under the Clean Water Act, Carey said. One was in the plains of eastern Douglas County, where the stream disappears into the sand, he said…

Despite the concern, the Poudre is likely to remain uncontaminated because there is little development potential in its watershed, Gertig said. “Since the Poudre is a wild and scenic river, protection of that designation may be more powerful than anything else,” he said.

More S. 787 coverage here.

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