Wetlands policy clarified

By CMTA Staff

Capitol Update, Dec. 5, 2008

At a time when the State Water Resources Control Board is contemplating changes to its wetlands regulations, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US-EPA) and the Department of the Army announced on Wednesday that they are issuing revised guidance to ensure America's wetlands, streams and other waters are better protected under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The guidance clarifies the geographic scope of jurisdiction under the CWA.

"We are providing improved guidance today to ensure the information is in place to fully protect the nation's streams and wetlands under the Clean Water Act," said Benjamin H. Grumbles, US-EPA’s assistant administrator for water. "The guidance builds upon our experiences and provides consistent direction to our staff and the public."

"We are committed to protecting America’s aquatic resources as required by the Clean Water Act and in accordance with the Supreme Court decision," said John Paul Woodley Jr., Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works). "This revised interagency guidance will enable the agencies to make clear, consistent, and predictable jurisdictional determinations within the scope of the Clean Water Act."
 
The revised guidance replaces previous policy issued in June 2007 and clarifies a June 2006 Supreme Court decision in Rapanos v. United States regarding the scope of the agencies’ jurisdiction under the CWA. (Some wetlands have been in questionable positions since this decision.) The guidance follows the agencies' evaluation of more than 18,000 jurisdictional determinations and review of more than 66,000 comments.
 
For more information on the guidance: http://www.epa.gov/owow/wetlands/guidance/CWAwaters.html

These particular new regulations will clarify existing jurisdictions.  One startling, and positive problem that will be resolved by them is the claim by some environmental groups that seasonal water accumulation (even in pits dug during construction and truck ruts on dirt roads) should be considered wetlands, require a permit and fall under the guidelines of California’s Environmental Quality Act.
 
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