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EPA Rule Clarifies Clean Water Protections in IL

PHOTO: Streams and watersheds in Illinois and around the nation should have greater protections in place now that the EPA has released its new Clean Water Rule. Photo credit: Vivek Prabhakar/Morguefile.
PHOTO: Streams and watersheds in Illinois and around the nation should have greater protections in place now that the EPA has released its new Clean Water Rule. Photo credit: Vivek Prabhakar/Morguefile.
May 28, 2015

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, has released a new Clean Water Rule, which supporters say will better protect rivers and streams in Illinois and across the nation from pollution.

At the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club, Cindy Skrukrud says the rule will restore Clean Water Act protections for headwaters, some streams and wetland habitat left uncertain by two U.S. Supreme Court rulings.

"It now clearly states that we're covering small tributaries that contribute water to downstream waters, that people rely on for their drinking water," says Skrurud. "And in Illinois, that's over 1.6 million people."

The move is an attempt to clarify protections after the Supreme Court decisions left some 20 million wetland acres and two million miles of streams unprotected. The government agencies held hundreds of meetings with stakeholders across the nation and reviewed more than a million public comments before developing the new rule.

In addition to drinking water, Skrukrud says, the at-risk waters also provide essential fish and wildlife habitat that helps to support Illinois' outdoor recreation economy.

"Clean water is really important to communities' economies," she says. "People love to get out and recreate in our waterways and so, we want to make sure that those areas are protected."

Some agriculture and industry groups claim the rule will hurt economic growth and intrude on property rights. According to the EPA, however, the rule does not change agricultural exemptions, nor does it expand on which smaller bodies of water are regulated.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL