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New Administration Water Rule Draws Praise From VA Hunters, Anglers

PHOTO: The administration has just released a new rule clarifying which waterways are covered by the Clean Water Act. Virginia lovers of the outdoors are hailing it. Picture courtesy of Wild Virginia.
PHOTO: The administration has just released a new rule clarifying which waterways are covered by the Clean Water Act. Virginia lovers of the outdoors are hailing it. Picture courtesy of Wild Virginia.
May 28, 2015

RICHMOND, Va. - The Obama administration released a new rule yesterday clarifying which waterways are covered by the Clean Water Act. Virginia hunters, anglers and conservationists say it's an excellent step. Two court decisions have in a sense muddied the waters about what protections apply to a number of streams, creeks and wetlands.

Sean Clarkson, a member of the board of directors of Spotsylvania with Backcountry Hunters and Anglers hails the rewrite of what's known as the Waters of the U.S. rule.

"From little pothole marshes and headwater, high mountain streams all the way down to the James River, waters of the United States should be a very simple concept for people to understand, and include all the waters in the United States," he says.

Clarkson says this will help protect hundreds of millions of Americans whose tap water had been at risk because small tributaries upstream could have become polluted.

"Roughly two-thirds of the entire United States gets their drinking water from the surface. And I don't know about you, but I prefer drinking water that's clean," he says.

Some farm and mining groups and real estate developers say the new rules would cripple their operations by controlling every tiny stream and wetland. The EPA says this isn't true. According to the agency, the new rule would clarify its jurisdiction to three percent of the country's surface area, all of which had been covered by the Clean Water Act before. Clarkson says it goes to great lengths to enhance exemptions for farmers, ranchers and foresters. He says mining companies are exaggerating the threat.

"We have heard this same old song and dance," says Clarkson. "The Clean Water Act, when it was first introduced, the mining industry jumped up and down and said it would put mining completely out of business. It hasn't happened. It's not going to happen."

Clarkson says this is especially good news for people who love the outdoors. He says it will protect the small streams that are crucial to fish and wildlife. New protections of small wetlands are important for wild birds.

"Ducks, geese, woodcock, the little neo-tropical migrants that come though and brighten up everyone's backyard every spring, so many of those nest in the same areas that those waters may be among the most very important," he says.

The EPA says while finalizing the rule they and the Army Corps of Engineers held more than 400 public meetings and considered more than a million public comments. It says nearly 90 percent of public comments on the rule favored it.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - VA