@EPA finalizes repeal of #WOTUS rule, promises new definitions in December

A wetland along Castle Creek. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From KOAA.com (Colette Bordelon):

The 2015 rule expanded the types of waterways that can receive federal protection under the Clean Water Act. Now, WOTUS will go back to it’s form before 2015. A member of the local Sierra Club disagrees with the decision. “Would allow people to pollute much more easily, there’s no longer a permit requirement, and because of that they can carry on activities without the government oversight,” said Jim Lockhart, the Conservation Chair of the Pikes Peak Group of the Sierra Club.

Lockhart said the 2015 rule defined what waterways should be protected more specifically, and now he’s interested to see what the new definition will be. “Rescinded the rule and promised new definitions, they could have waited and created the new definitions and then let the public see them and then let the public decide,” said Lockhart.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the new definition will come in December, and would mean farmers, landowners, and businesses will spend less time and money determining whether they need a federal permit.

Arizona Rivers Map via Geology.com.

From The Cronkite News (Kailey Broussard) via KOAA.com:

…while some welcomed the end of the “Waters of the United States” rule, environmental groups warned that the change would mean virtually no environmental protection for the nation’s waterways – particularly in the West.

“We know where we are going, and that is going to be a world where wetlands, especially in the arid West, get almost no protection,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director for the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity.

A 2018 report by the center estimated that more than 3,000 U.S. watersheds would lose Clean Water Act protections under the replacement plan proposed by the Trump administration. That, in turn, could accelerate the extinction of more than 75 endangered species, the report said.

Critics of the Obama-era rule – known as WOTUS – disagree, saying the full range of federal pollution regulations does more than enough to protect waterways…

In the meantime, federal officials are developing and presenting a new plan. That process has garnered more than 621,000 comments on the federal regulations website…

…Sandy Bahr, president of the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon chapter, said the EPA is “not being honest” about the change’s impact. WOTUS protected arterial waterways, she said, by protecting the less-obvious waters.

“If you take a very narrow view of that and say, ‘Oh, only waters that are navigable,’ then you’re not even going to be protecting those navigable waters,” she said.

Bahr and others have pointed to the San Pedro River, a ribbon-like stream that meanders some 140 miles through southern Arizona and part of Mexico. The stream’s limited navigability means it most likely would not receive protection under the repeal.

“You can talk about these things in the abstract, but when you look at what is happening on the ground already, we’re struggling to protect rivers like the San Pedro River, which is so important ecologically and economically,” Bahr said. “Something like this rollback makes it so much more difficult to do.”

Hartl said that, except for the Colorado River, the change would mean most of Arizona would not be protected. A map included with the center’s study showed much of the Southwest losing Clean Water Act protection without WOTUS…

Meanwhile, Bahr is certain the proposed rule will be challenged.

“We need to have the most stringent requirements possible to protect what we have left because we have lost so much,” she said.

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