NancyStoner

About Nancy Stoner

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Water Unites Us

This past weekend I had occasion to reflect on my service as EPA’s water chief as I attended an internment of the ashes of my Uncle Richard and Aunt Ginger. They did many important and impressive things in their lives, but I remember them most for the gatherings they hosted at Stoner’s Lonesome, a small lake in Brown County, Indiana.

After the service at the cemetery, the extended family gathered at the lake for fishing, boating, swimming, and communion with one another. As we floated together in the clear, cool water reminiscing about summers past at Stoner’s Lonesome long ago, it reinforced my strongly held belief that our collective experience with water is not just about public health or environmental protection or economics, but also about quenching the soul, quieting the mind, and enriching the human spirit.

Tapping into that inner knowledge of the value of water to our lives will motivate us as a nation to come together to meet the challenges ahead. It has been my honor and privilege to be involved in that effort on behalf of the American public for the past four and a half years at EPA.

water-unites-us-blog1

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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The Renewal Continues in New Orleans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Nancy Stoner

New Orleans is defined by its location along the Mississippi River and near the Gulf of Mexico. It is working hard to define its water future — a future in which the city is less vulnerable to flooding and sea level rise and is able to retain or restore many of the coastal wetlands that have been lost over the years because people have altered the hydrology.

The Urban Waters Ambassador, Danny Wiegand, funded by the Office of Water and on detail from the Army Corps of Engineers, is the perfect guy to take on this assignment. He’s working closely with the Mayor’s office, other agencies such as HUD and FEMA, and most importantly, the citizens of New Orleans and grassroots groups such as Groundwork New Orleans. More

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Protecting Americans’ Health at the Beach

You may have read my post on July 3 about EPA’s work to protect swimmers at America’s beaches. Protecting public health is a top priority for EPA, and I want to let you know about an updated guidance document we recently published to support this priority. We developed the National Beach Guidance and Required Performance Criteria for Grants, 2014 Edition to help state, territorial and tribal governments do a better job at keeping beaches safe for swimming. We worked with these partners to make sure that the guidance included workable requirements while also better protecting the health of beachgoers.

Putting in Place Safer Standards for Recreational Waters

There are 38 states, territories, and tribes on our coasts or around the Great Lakes that are eligible for federal grants under the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act (BEACH Act). Since 2001, EPA has made available nearly $130 million to help those governments monitor recreational waters and notify the public of beach advisories or closures. In order to receive the grants, eligible governments must meet the performance criteria we establish.
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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Protecting Beachgoers is Top Priority for EPA

People swim at a beach with a city skyline in the distance.Summer’s here, and it’s time to celebrate the 4th of July! Many of us will celebrate by going to the beach –over 307 million of us took trips to the beach last year, according to the U.S. Lifesaving Association. This is a good opportunity for me to tell you about EPA’s work to protect swimmers at America’s beaches.

Protecting public health is a top priority for EPA, and we rely on the best science to do that. We also work closely with our partners at the state and local level, to make sure we learn from their experience and help support their programs.

Setting Safer Standards for Recreational Water

In 2012, we recommended new water quality criteria to better protect the health of Americans engaging in a variety of recreational activities such as swimming, surfing and paddling. The criteria are based on the latest science and improve protection of public health by addressing a broader range of illness symptoms, better accounting for pollution after heavy rainfall, ensuring equal protection for coastal and Great Lakes waters, encouraging early alerts to beachgoers and promoting rapid water testing.

States and local public health officials use recreational criteria to determine when water quality meets public health standards for safe recreation. The criteria also provide optional thresholds for when to issue swimming advisories or beach closures.

Encouraging States to Incorporate the Safer Standards

This year, we are working to update our guidance for states and territories that receive grants from EPA to help monitor their beaches for bacterial pollution. A major goal for this revision is to encourage states to adopt a more comprehensive approach to monitoring and public notification plans by using better information and new tools. In the draft version, we incorporated key aspects of the 2012 recreational water quality criteria.

In an effort to increase protection of the public while swimming or otherwise enjoying activities in or near the water, the draft guidance proposed a new grant requirement for states to use a beach notification threshold value that would provide enhanced public health protection to beachgoers.

We asked for public comments, and since May have been working to address the comments we have received.  We will be continuing to work with state and local officials to make sure that we have an approach that is workable for them and also protects the public health and safety of beachgoers.

Gathering and Providing Information about Local Beaches

To help you plan your next trip to the beach, we’re making sure you have access to information we collect about beaches around the country. The BEACON (Beach Advisory and Closing Online Notification) is a national database that contains beach monitoring and notification data reported by states, territories, and tribes. If BEACON does not have recent water quality information, contact your state, territory, or tribe’s beach program or EPA’s regional beach contact person.

Our How’s My Waterway? app can help you find information about local waters using your mobile device.

We want you to enjoy your summer and we want your experience to be as safe as possible. Our priority is to use the best science to ensure that swimmers are adequately protected while in the water at our nation’s spectacular coastlines.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Setting the Record Straight on Waters of the US

Nancy Stoner, Acting Assistant Administrator for Water

Updated July 7, 2014

There’s been some confusion about EPA and the Corps’ proposed “Waters of the U.S.” rule under the Clean Water Act, especially in the agriculture community, and we want to make sure you know the facts.

We know that we haven’t had the best relationship with the agriculture industry in the past, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t and we can’t do better.  We are committed to listening to farmers and ranchers and in fact, our proposed rule takes their feedback into account.

The rule keeps intact all Clean Water Act exemptions and exclusions for agriculture that farmers count on. But it does more for farmers by actually expanding the list of up-front exemptions. We worked with USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service and the Army Corps of Engineers to exempt 56 additional conservation practices. These practices are familiar to many farmers, who know their benefits to business, the land, and water resources.

Farmers and ranchers are on the land every day, and they are our nation’s original conservationists. The American agriculture economy is the envy of the world, and today’s farmers and ranchers are global business professionals—relying on up-to-the minute science to make decisions about when to plant, fertilize, and irrigate crops.

Both EPA and farmers make decisions based on facts—so here are the facts about the proposal.
When Congress passed the Clean Water Act in 1972, it didn’t just defend the mighty Mississippi or our Great Lakes; it also protected the smaller streams and wetlands that weave together a vast, interconnected system. It recognized that healthy families and farms downstream depend on healthy headwaters upstream.  But two Supreme Court cases over the last 15 years confused things, making it unclear which waters are “in,” and which are “out.”

That confusion added red tape, time, and expense to the permitting process under the Clean Water Act. The Army Corps of Engineers had to make case-by-case decisions about which waters were protected, and decisions in different parts of the country became inconsistent.

So EPA and the Corps are bringing clarity and consistency to the process, cutting red tape and saving money. The proposed Waters of the U.S. rule does not regulate new types of ditches, does not regulate activities on land, and does not apply to groundwater. The proposal does not change the exemption for stock ponds, does not require permits for normal farming activities like moving cattle, and does not regulate puddles.

The agencies’ goals align with those of farmers: clean water fuels agriculture—and we all depend on the food, fuel, and fiber that our farmers produce. We at EPA and the Corps welcome input on the proposed rule to make sure we get it right.

Here are clarifications on a few points of confusion about the proposed rule. For further information, check out:

http://www2.epa.gov/uswaters/questions-and-answers-about-waters-us-pdf

The EPA and the Army Corps are NOT going to have greater power over water on farms and ranches.

  • The Clean Water Act and its regulations have multiple exclusions and exemptions from jurisdiction and permit requirements.  The proposed rule does not change or limit any of them.
  • The agencies also worked with USDA to develop and publish through an interpretive rule, a list of NRCS agricultural conservation practices that will not be subject to CWA permitting requirements.  These practices encourage conservation while protecting and improving water quality.

The proposed rule will NOT bring all ditches on farms under federal jurisdiction.

  • Some ditches have been regulated under the Clean Water Act since the 1970s.
  • The proposed rule does not expand jurisdiction.
  • For the first time, the agencies are clarifying that all ditches that are constructed in dry lands, that drain only dry lands, and don’t flow all year, are not “waters of the U.S.” This includes many roadside ditches, and many ditches collecting runoff or drainage from crop fields.
    • Ditches that are IN are generally those that are essentially human-altered streams, which feed the health and quality of larger downstream waters. The agencies have always regulated these types of ditches.
    • Ditches that are OUT are those that are dug in dry lands and don’t flow all the time, or don’t flow into a jurisdictional water.
  • Farmers, ranchers and foresters continue to receive their exemptions from Clean Water Act Section 404 permitting requirements when they construct and maintain their ditches, even if ditches are jurisdictional.

The proposed rule does NOT mean permits are needed for walking cows across a wet field or stream.

  • Normal farming and ranching activities are not regulated under the Clean Water Act.

The proposed rule will NOT apply to wet areas on fields or erosional features on fields.

  • Wet areas on crop fields are not jurisdictional.
  • The proposal specifically excludes erosional features from being “waters of the U.S.”

EPA and the Corps are NOT taking control of ponds in the middle of the farm.

  • The proposed rule does not change existing practice regarding farm ponds.
  • The rule does not affect the existing exemption Congress created under section 404 for construction and maintenance of farm or stock ponds.
  • The proposed rule would for the first time specifically exclude stock watering ponds from jurisdiction in rule language.

http://www2.epa.gov/uswaters/questions-and-answers-about-waters-us-pdf

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Reducing the Impact of Stormwater Challenges

Acting Assistant Administrator for the EPA Office of Water

Stormwater pollution is a dilemma all across the country – even in beautiful mountain towns like Aspen, Colorado. Pollutants such as oils, fertilizer, and sediment from the steep mountains that tower over the town, can be carried via stormwater and snowmelt and deposited into waterways like the Roaring Fork River. This has a huge impact on the ecosystem.

Last month, I toured the Jennie Adair wetlands, a bio-engineered detention area designed to passively treat stormwater runoff in Aspen. I saw firsthand how the city is working to deal with its stormwater challenges. Before this project, stormwater did not drain to a water treatment facility. It used to flow directly into the Roaring Fork River and other water bodies within the city limits, having significant impacts on the water quality.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Seeing EPA funds helping the Mississippi River

Last month, as part of the Hypoxia Task Force Meeting in Little Rock, Arkansas, I visited a farm in the Mississippi River Delta area, and more specifically in the Critical Groundwater Area of the Bayou Meto Watershed.  I am honored to co-chair the Hypoxia Task Force and meet with my fellow members throughout the Basin, and these personal visits with the people managing the land in the Basin are always a highlight.

Acting Assistant Administrator Nancy Stoner meets with farmers in Arkansas.

Acting Assistant Administrator Nancy Stoner meets with farmers in Arkansas.

We know that nonpoint source nutrient pollution from fertilizers in the Mississippi River Basin is the most significant threat to water quality in the region and to the Gulf of Mexico. The Arkansas Discovery Farms Program helps many stakeholders make informed decisions about the sustainable future of their farms.  I am delighted to note that the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission has provided EPA Nonpoint Source Program Section 319 funds to the Arkansas Discovery Farm Program – this is just one example of these funds supporting local watershed work across the country.  During my visit, Drs. Mike Daniels and Andrew Sharpley of the University of Arkansas described the Arkansas Discovery Farms Program and how they work with eight participating farms in Arkansas. More

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Climate Change Impacts Water First

 

By Nancy Stoner

In my travels this year, I’ve been experiencing firsthand how communities around the country are taking innovative steps to cope with the environmental changes affecting the water environment. From extreme weather–such as severe droughts and flooding–to more subtle changes–like declining recharge of aquifers and loss of wetlands–communities are facing up to unprecedented challenges.

We depend on a reliable, clean supply of water to sustain our health, nourish our fields, produce energy and manufactured products, support fish and shellfish beds and allow us to enjoy recreational activities. But we are witnessing a historic collision between our growing population, increasing urbanization, and climate change that are putting unprecedented pressure on water resources and water management systems. At EPA, we are concerned about how this is affecting water quality and quantity, and in turn, how it affects our communities, ecosystems and the economy. More

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Input Critical to Rule on Waters of the U.S.

There are common driving forces behind all of our work here at EPA. We work to protect human health and the environment. We follow the law and the best science available. And the other critical factor that we always rely on is public input. When this agency is considering an action, we listen very carefully to all stakeholders.

This is certainly the case with the proposed rule to clarify protections for streams and wetlands under the Clean Water Act. Protection for these waters has been confusing and complex for the past decade as the result of Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006. So together with the Army Corps of Engineers, we recently proposed a rule to clarify protection for upstream waters that are vital to the health of downstream waterways and communities. Take a look at this video from EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to learn more about what this proposed rule means. More

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Addressing Crucial Water Issues in Our Communities

This year, we here at EPA celebrate the 20th anniversary of President Clinton signing Executive Order 12898, which directed federal agencies to address environmental disparities in minority and low-income communities. We’ve certainly accomplished a lot since the order was signed, but sadly, too many people still breathe dirty air, live near toxic waste dumps, or lack reliable access to clean water. But we continue to make progress in all of those areas, and here in EPA’s Office of Water, I’m proud of how we’re helping communities across America—both rural and urban—address their most crucial water issues.

Last fall, I was in Laredo, Texas and visited a community near the U.S.-Mexico border called the colonias, which until recently did not have regular access to clean water. Thanks to funding from EPA’s U.S.-Mexico Border Infrastructure Program, 3,700 people in the colonias now have access to a modern sewer system. We also have a program that provides funding for the planning, design and construction of wastewater infrastructure for American Indian and Alaskan Native communities. Providing access to clean water to people who have never had it before is one of the most important things we have the power and resources to do.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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