Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS)
On December 11, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of the Army (Army) announced they are seeking to limit the definition of “waters of the United States” that clarifies federal authority under the Clean Water Act.
This proposed change is in contrast to the definition proposed in 2015 under President Obama. The following article published by NC Policy watch explains the difference between the two definitions and explains the impact the 2018 definition would have on our nation’s wetlands and overall water quality and protection.
The proposed rule published in the Federal Register (FR) on February 14, 2019 and over 159,00 comments were submitted by April 15, 2019. The agencies will have to review and respond to all these comments.
- Carolina Wetlands Association
- NC Department of Enironmental Quality
Loss of protections to wetlands and streams.
In the new rule, wetland protection is dependent on stream protection. Stream protection will be drastically reduced, covering only perennial streams and some intermittent streams. In order for a wetland to be federally protected under the proposed rule, it must directly abutt a jurisdictional stream or be an “adjacent wetland” with continuous surface flow to a jurisdictional stream part of the year. This means all bays, depressional wetlands, isolated wetlands, floodplain wetlands will lose protection. North Carolina and South Carolina have extensive acreage of these types of wetlands.
What is devastating for our wetlands, will be devastating for us.
Our wetlands do so many things for us – for free! If we lose protections of our wetlands and streams, we will lose the benefits they give us all
Like clean water? Wetlands filter out pollutants and sediment from water flowing through.
Anyone use water? Our wetlands trap water and slow it down so it can seep back into the groundwater, rather than flowing away. Wetlands help water return to underground aquifers and reservoirs, which are often tapped for human use.
Animals need homes too. Wetlands are extremely important to a wide variety of animals and plants that cannot exist without wetlands.
People need nature. Wetlands are ideal places for people to enjoy time in nature — hiking, bird-watching, boating, hunting, camping, or taking pictures.
Like seafood? Wetlands are indispensable nursery grounds for many commercially important fish and shellfish species.
We need a stable climate. Wetlands worldwide help moderate global climatic conditions by storing large amounts of carbon and water.
That water has to go somewhere. In 2018, we have experienced major floods from hurricanes and other storms. Our wetlands provide a place for water to go. If development occurs on filled wetlands and streams, that water will end up damaging property and human lives.
We all have a history. Wetlands are important to our understanding of past human settlement, in the Carolinas and around the world.
We have more to learn. Many beneficial drugs have been discovered in wetland plants. Wetlands are also excellent places to learn about how nature works.
We need to speak up against this proposed rule. Speaking up is an important role of CarWA, especially at this time. We can talk about why these wetlands matter to all people, and why they deserve continued protection.
Which wetlands will lose protection?
The following article published by North Carolina Policy Watch explains which streams and wetlands would lose federal protection.