The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have proposed a new rule that seeks to shed light on the federal Clean Water Act's jurisdiction regarding protection of streams and wetlands. The new rule will clarify how upstream waters are protected, following years of controversy and confusion over the matter arising from two Supreme Court rulings in 2001 and 2006, the EPA stated.
The proposal will be open to public comment and discussion over the next 90 days before the EPA and the Army Corps finalize the rule. Under the proposal, no new types of bodies of water are covered by the Clean Water Act and it is consistent with the "more narrow reading" of the act provided by the Supreme Court, and also based on the latest scientific opinions, the agency said.
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This means that the vast majority of seasonal and rain-dependent streams are protected by the Clean Water Act, as well as wetlands located near rivers and streams. Other types of upstream waters that may have an uncertain connection with downstream water will be evaluated individually to determine how significant their contribution is.
The proposed rule keeps the Clean Water Act exemptions and exclusions for agriculture. An interpretive rule, effective immediately, has been developed in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ensure that 53 different conservation practices intended to protect water quality will not be subject to permitting requirements.