The federal Clean Water Act (CWA) is the main piece of federal legislation that protects the Nation's waters. Within the CWA, there are a number of sections that specifically address protection or regulation of wetlands. For example, Section 303 addresses water quality standards; Section 401 includes 401 Certification—to condition permits; Section 402 addresses the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES); and Section 404 includes the dredge and fill permitting program as well as State Assumption.
On Wednesday, March 25, 2014, the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Army Corps of Engineers released the official draft rule to clarify jurisdiction over streams and wetlands. The Association of State Wetland Managers (ASWM) has been following the rulemaking process for more than two years, and has been actively involved with other organizations in interpreting the proposed clarifications and their implications for managing wetlands, streams, floodplains and water quality.
The Clean Water Act was weakened by the US Supreme Court after the split decision known as the Rapanos and Carabell Decision in 2006, which followed another complex debate known as the SWANCC Decision in 2001. The intent of the proposed rule is to clarify jurisdiction for the protection of the nation’s water resources in response to multiple requests from multiple sectors, including the agricultural community, consultants, regulators, developers, natural resource managers and conservation groups.
In addition to publishing the proposed rule on Clean Water Act jurisdiction, EPA and the Army Corps also published an interpretive rule “regarding the Applicability of the Exemption from Permitting under Section 404(f)(1)(A) of the Clean Water Act to Certain Agricultural Conservation Practices” that can be found here.
For more information on the new proposed rule, read ASWM Executive Director’s blog here, or visit:
Geographically Isolated Wetlands of the United States
Waters of the United States
Background Information on Clean Water Act Definition of “Wwaters of the U.S.”
Science Advisory Board Connectivity Report
Interpretive Rule on Agriculture Exemption
ASWM has a robust collection of discussion papers on wetlands and jurisdictional issues, Rapanos, SWANCC and other significant court cases under Law on the menu.
Setting the Record Straight on Waters of the US
Nancy Stoner, Acting Assistant Administrator for Water – EPA Connect – June 30, 2014
There’s been some confusion about EPA’s proposed “Waters of the U.S.” ruleunder the Clean Water Act, especially in the agriculture community, and we want to make sure you know the facts.
We know that we haven’t had the best relationship with the agriculture industry in the past, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t and we can’t do better. We are committed to listening to farmers and ranchers and in fact, our proposed rule takes their feedback into account.
The rule keeps intact all Clean Water Act exemptions and exclusions for agriculture that farmers count on. But it does more for farmers by actually expanding those exemptions. We worked with USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service and the Army Corps of Engineers to exempt 56 additional conservation practices. These practices are familiar to many farmers, who know their benefits to business, the land, and water resources.
Farmers and ranchers are on the land every day, and they are our nation’s original conservationists. The American agriculture economy is the envy of the world, and today’s farmers and ranchers are global business professionals—relying on up-to-the minute science to make decisions about when to plant, fertilize, and irrigate crops. To read full blog post, click here.
Changes to Clean Water Act Jurisdiction & the New Interpretive Rule
On Wednesday, March 25, the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Army Corps of Engineers released the official draft rule to clarify jurisdiction over streams and wetlands. The Association of State Wetland Managers (ASWM) has been following the rulemaking process for two years, and has been actively involved with other organizations in interpreting the proposed clarifications and their implications for managing wetlands, streams, floodplains and water quality. ASWM's Executive Director, Jeanne Christie, wrote a blog in March to summarize the new proposed rule. On April 24, she wrote a blog with updated information on the new proposed rule as well as its unexpected companion, the Interpretive Rule. You may find other information and links on the ASWM Clean Water Act webpage here.
2012 Clean Water Act Guidance
In 2011, the U.S. EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers developed draft guidance for determining whether a waterway, water body, or wetland is protected by the Clean Water Act. This guidance would have replaced previous guidance to reaffirm protection for critical waters. It was also intended to provide clearer, more predictable guidelines for determining which water bodies are protected by the Clean Water Act. The Agencies' Joint draft guidance was never finalized due to multiple requests from stakeholders to issue a rulemaking instead of guidance. The proposed rule described in the section above is the result of that effort to develop the requested rule. For a link to the 2011 Proposed Guidance, click here. For the 2011 Federal Registry Notice, click here.
Clean Water Act Better at 40 (Minnesota Pollution Control Agency)