Kayakers, sportsmen, conservationists deliver 23,887 clean water comments to EPA Regional Administrator Jim Martin

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From the Summit Daily News (Janice Kurbjin):

Supreme Court rulings have put intermittent and ephemeral streams at risk, said David Nickum of Trout Unlimited, which includes most of Colorado’s waterways. In their rulings, judges narrowed protection to “navigable” waterways, under which classification a section of the Colorado River and a small portion of the Navajo Reservoir are the only protected waters in the state, Nickum said. There isn’t necessarily a provision for navigable waterways for commercial rafts, he added. It’s an extreme position, Nickum said, adding, “It’s the wrong direction to be moving and we don’t believe Congress intended (the law to read) that way.”

To respond to the call for clarity, the federal EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have developed draft guidance for determining whether a waterway, water body, or wetland is protected by the Clean Water Act. Jim Martin, EPA’s regional administrator in Denver, said the uncertainty means his staff can spend hours determining if they can step in during a case of a spill, when they’d rather be cleaning them up and preventing them. According to the Associated Press, the American Farm Bureau Federation says it’s concerned farmers and ranchers will be saddled with more regulations, but Martin says stock ponds and irrigated land are exempt.

Pam Kiely of Environment Colorado estimated that a minimum of 450 Summit County residents took the time to support the draft guidance revisions.

Nickum said the reaffirmation of protection affects critical tributaries for drinking water, but it also affects downstream fisheries and recreational waterways — including intermittent, ephemeral or headwater streams.

In Colorado, these types of waterways account for 62 percent of the total river miles that feed into public drinking supplies and supports more than 3.7 million Coloradans, according to Environment Colorado. Essentially, the new guidance puts 30 years of historic protection back in “good standing,” Nickum said.

Environmental Protection Agency coverage here.

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