On Tuesday, the Trump administration announced plans for a broad rollback of protection for the wetlands and similar small bodies of water. This new plan will directly combat rules set up by the Obama administration back in 2015. The proposal for the new rules will be published in the Federal Register for public review.
According to the Mercury News, the Trump administration claims that this move will be a great benefit to landowners and farmers, who will have the freedom to manage their lands as they see fit without the fear of government intervention. This move will significantly diminish the power and authority of the federal Clean Water Act
Acting Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Andrew Wheeler was quick to point out how this would provide help and support to land developers across the country.
“Our new, more precise definition means that hardworking Americans will spend less time determining whether they need a federal permit and more time upgrading aging infrastructure, building homes, creating jobs and growing crops to feed our families,” Wheeler said in a statement.
“Property owners will be able to stand on their property and determine what is federal water without having to hire outside professionals.”
This is all part of the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineer’s joint plan to redefine the waters of the United States. Such a move would allow them to eliminate federal protection for any bodies of water that don’t meet certain specific qualifications.
Streams that only flow after rainfall or snow and wetlands without surface water connections to bigger bodies of water are both no longer protected, thanks to the new rollback.
Vast amounts of wetlands and thousands of miles of U.S. waterways would no longer be federally protected by the Clean Water Act under a new proposal by the Trump administration. https://t.co/eAdm9z2i5K
— NPR Politics (@nprpolitics) December 11, 2018
Former administrations, including that of George W. Bush, ensured that wetlands were protected regardless of the amount of water contained within them. Streams — even those that only ran during rain or snow — were protected under the Clean Water Rule set up by the Obama administration, so long as they possessed an identifiable high-water mark, bank, and bed.
The new rules impact six types of aquatic resources, adding up to thousands of miles of lakes, ponds, wetlands, streams, and assorted navigable waters, to name just a few.
While supporters claim this will prove financially beneficial to farmers and landowners who have been previously hampered by restrictive rulings, others aren’t so sure. Critics are concerned about the potential environmental fallout, particularly in areas with delicate ecosystems.
The public will have 60 days from the printing of the proposal to comment with their thoughts. From there, the Army Corps and EPA will have the opportunity to look over the comments before issuing their final rule.