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

2014 March 25
Nancy Stoner

March 25, 2014
12:00 pm EDT

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.

In large part, it was public input that led us to propose a rule. Since 2008, EPA and the Corps have received numerous requests for a rulemaking to provide clarity on protections under the Clean Water Act from members of Congress, state and local officials, industry, agriculture, environmental groups, scientists, and the public.

In developing the proposed rule, we consulted extensively with stakeholders for the past three to four years. In particular, EPA and the Corps listened to important input from the agriculture community and worked with USDA to ensure their concerns were addressed. The agencies also hosted a series of discussions with state, local and tribal leaders. With the assistance of the Office of Management and Budget and the Small Business Administration, we also received input from the business community.

Additionally, we carefully considered about 415,000 comments we received since the Supreme Court decisions. All of this public input helped to shape the EPA and the Corps’ thinking on the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act reflected in the proposal.

Now that the proposed rule has been released, we are launching another round of robust engagement with the full spectrum of parties. We will be holding discussions across the country, asking questions and gathering input needed to make final decisions on Clean Water Act protections. We are also accepting public comment on the proposed rule for 90 days once it publishes. The discussions and comments will play a fundamental role in shaping the final rule and determining protection for our nation’s streams and wetlands. We hope to hear from you.

Click here to learn more about our proposed rule for the Clean Water Act.

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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83 Responses leave one →
  1. Arman.- permalink
    March 25, 2014

    Waters : We Can’t Stop Loving You…………..!

    In fact, past, present, and future, the “powers” are continuously struggle to have control the waters, wherever we live. I hope EPA to consider it and concerns that water only for welfare of the people, not the others interest…………….!

  2. John Behnke permalink
    March 27, 2014

    I do not see anywhere else to post a comment as to the waters of the US as the links have said they consider public opinion on it. I do not support this for/in Kansas.

  3. toni Danielson permalink
    March 30, 2014

    We need to ban atroscene. I watched the march 20th meeting with congress and you are either with a future for all of the world or you are not. It is as simple as that. Big money can not buy a dead planet. and it is getting to be too late I believe that there are those who believe that dooms day is near and are purposefully moving to that destiny destiny fulfilled and that heaven will be theirs but it will not be thiers when you destroy that which is perfect (the heavens and earth) and the perfect gift (life)from God.

  4. Grant McBee permalink
    April 5, 2014

    Obviously, upstream waters flow downstream into ‘navigable’ waters which flow over public land. This while, upstream waters flow, trickle and seep mostly over private lands. These new regulations will certainly impact use of private property. The CWA still treats these upstream waters as if they were navigable and therefore ‘publicly owned’. The CWA needs to recognize that the scope of federal authority over private lands -which happen to have air or water flowing or seeping across them- is limited to protecting the downstream water-quality or downwind air-quality, not the permitting of use of private property.

    Because the CWA was written to protect water over public property (i.e. “navigable waters”), each expanded interpretation of the jurisdictional scope beyond navigable waters expands EPA jurisdiction over private property. Although it is understandably necessary to protect downstream public property by preventing upstream water from being polluted, the scope of jurisdiction under the CWA should recognize the distinction between regulating public property and private property.
    What is needed with the EPA’s definition for ‘Waters of the United States’ is clear recognition that the scope of EPA authority and discretion does not extend beyond that necessary to protect downstream public property.

  5. Rev. Larry R. Thomas permalink
    April 6, 2014

    While providing clean water is good, having the federal government involved is not. The federal government cannot enforce 1/2 the laws that are now on the books, let alone enforcing having every creek, stream, etc. clean in the U.S. Clean water should be a state’s problem, not the federal government.

    • VA4Freedom permalink
      April 16, 2014

      Agreed! More Federal government regulation No! Smaller Federal government Yes!

      • Joe Thompson permalink
        August 1, 2014

        Since many rivers and streams are interstate, allowing the individual states to regulate pollution would allow upstream states to determine the water quality of downstream states. Such a system would be the same as the one we had prior to the Clean Water Act, when our nations waters were a lot dirtier and in fact, some of them caught fire. A federal standard is the only way to ensure fairness to states that care more about the health and cleanliness of their waters than those that don’t.

        • Anonymous permalink
          October 14, 2014

          Joe Thompson, of course RIVERS and STREAMS that cross state lines should remain under federal Jurisdiction, Mr. Thomas is saying that there is no logical reason why the federal government should have jurisdiction over roadside ditches and swales, say, 50 miles from the border like many currently are.

      • Justin B permalink
        August 6, 2014

        I have to agree even though the government may seek to help our environment, sometimes too much can hurt our economy. I do think renewable forms of energy such as solar can help to do a lot for us in 2014 and beyond. Solar Panels should be promoted more and rotating tax credits and rebates should be implemented.

  6. MarkM permalink
    April 12, 2014

    I see this as MORE overreach by the Federal Government and this is a over reach by the EPA and ACE their responsible for Navigable waterways NOT a bit of runoff from private property. This is total overreach by big government when we can not afford the 17.4 trillion in debt we have not, we have too much $ owed and adding more Government Regulation only serves to hamper growth. As a nation we are over-regulated and over taxed, the government overspends and can not balance a budget. Time to stop trying to grow the government and start growing the country.

    The US is cleaner now than any time in last hundred years time to stop adding more problems for less and less returns.

    • Joe Thompson permalink
      August 1, 2014

      No, this is a clarification of existing laws.

      • Joe Thompson permalink
        August 1, 2014

        “The US is cleaner now than any time in last hundred years.” This is due in large part to the Clean Water Act.

  7. Jana permalink
    April 16, 2014

    I do not support further regulation on our sovereign waterways. The American people are fully cognizant that there are a plethora of ways to ensure safety of our drinking water and question the motives of this legislation that will restrict access and take hundreds if not thousands of hectares of privately owned land in the process. Furthermore, if the recent ruling that will absolutely put many Northern California farmers out of business because of lack of access to adequate water is a harbinger of what the EPA wants to do nationwide, you will effectively turn us into Zimbabwe which is now a wasteland that can not feed its own people due to the policies that removed capable farmers from their land.

  8. Rick Drago permalink
    April 16, 2014

    I’ll start off with Definition of navigable (adj)
    Bing Dictionary
    nav·i·ga·ble[ návvigəb’l ]
    passable by ship: passable by ship or boat, especially deep enough and wide enough to allow ships or boats to sail through
    steerable: able to be steered or otherwise controlled.

    Most streams that run through private property are not navigable. It seems the EPA has grouped all water into this category, standing or flowing above or below ground. If a stream runs through private property is the EPA trying to claim power over the land because of water ? and try to confiscate land and then do as they please with it ? The EPA needs to heed the rights of the lands owners and trespassing on private land and not assume they can just enter without a warrant and probable cause.

    The EPA should have no jurisdiction over any rain water thats collected or man made ponds, pools sitting water and such

    The water on public land is a different matter and should be decided on by the people on its use not the EPA.

    All research and scientific data must be available to all the public and independent researchers, scientific data of any kind must be transparent available to all US citizens and private researchers and must be able to be duplicate and get similar or same results by private testing for it to be valid.

    At no time can the EPA or federal Government confiscate or declare eminent domain on private land by declaring its for the clean water act. and if do try, there has to be more then EPA and Federal Governments word on that there has been a violations of such damage to the water that the land could be taken with out first cleaning up such area there would have to be 3 or more independent researchers and testing done to prove or disprove the findings of the EPA and Federal Government and then brought to court with a trail by jury before any action is taken.

    This seems to be more about controlling every drop of water and the land that goes with it, with the EPA and federal Government claiming it is theirs and doesn’t belong to anybody but them which is PREPOSTEROUS assumption by the EPA and federal government.

    • Poor Rancher permalink
      October 22, 2014

      Many of you commenters do not have experience dealing with EPA or the Corps. I was an environmental engineer and spent many years protecting and adhering to the CWA as an operator in wastewater treatment. My interactions with EPA were always that they knew the concepts but didn’t understand the real world. Now, as a rancher I put in a new driveway then was told by EPA and the Corps that the irrigation ditch I covered violated the CWA? This just after getting a permit, the irrigation company installed a culvert and covered it with rock. Then the Corps told me that an old rock pile I had lying around would have to be removed. My land in full of rocks so everybody has piles around here. The irrigation ditch they said is under their jurisdiction because it travels from one navigable water to another and that I can’t have an entry into my property? I don’t think that they really know what they are doing and was insulted by their accusations. Is there any hope that the government can let go and let the state and local governments decide what is best. Most farmers/ranchers do not want to pollute.

  9. Vanessa Register permalink
    April 17, 2014

    I don’t want the EPA and the BLM of all people in charge of public water on private land. So far the EPA and BLM have shown they don’t have the ability to work within the intent of the law and use the law in this case to provide clean water as an excuse to hoar off the land to the biggest bidder.

  10. Nonr permalink
    April 23, 2014

    We are the government and we are here to help institute bureaucratic red tape and totally mess things up and then sell the American people’s land to the Chinese. We will lie to your face and deceive you. We will do what we want, when we want, and we don’t care what you think. US Government 2014

    This is my opinion and I’m sticking to it.

  11. Kim Anh permalink
    April 26, 2014

    Agreed! More Federal government regulation No!

  12. John Parmer permalink
    April 30, 2014

    This is a very important subject. The federal government should not as much influence as they currently do.

  13. Ruth Davies permalink
    May 3, 2014

    The federal government cannot implement the laws that are at the present on the books, let alone enforcing having each stream, brook, etc. clean in the U.S.A. Clean water should be a state’s trouble, not the federal government.

  14. Dennis Palmer permalink
    May 4, 2014

    The U.S. government, especially the EPA is always over reaching. They monitoring of streams and rivers for containments has worked and rivers are now cleaner than they have been in years. However, controlling our water ways and limiting use due to so called protected species, is a farce. The U.S. government is no longer a voice of the people.

    • Mona permalink
      May 26, 2014

      ” The U.S. government is no longer a voice of the people.”

      What an arrogant thing to say. You speak for all the people now?

  15. Mary E. Krauss permalink
    May 19, 2014

    I side with the E.P.A.. My son achieved his B. of S. in Environmental Science in 2005 and has not worked in it since. His instructors said it can be extremely depressing. We would not need the E.P.A. if all people were caring and appreciative of all water used, received and discarded with waste. I do think waterway clarification is necessary with litigations making it to the supreme court. Another concern of mine is waste fracking water being put underground in Ohio. If it is so safe why isn’t it allowed above ground? The EPA needs to be able to have input on these matters also.

  16. Mary E. Krauss permalink
    May 19, 2014

    We also pray for those who are involved in taking care of our environment weekly at our church.

  17. reformkalip permalink
    May 24, 2014

    I do not see anywhere else to post a comment as to the waters of the US as the links have said they consider public opinion on it. I do not support this for/in Kansas.

    • Joe Thompson permalink
      August 1, 2014

      Last I checked, Kansas was part of the U.S.

  18. Mona permalink
    May 26, 2014

    The federal government is necessary to protect the interest of the public over those of profit driven corporations and big farmers. The reactionary all-regulation-are-bad argument is counterproductive and is scant reason to oppose this important piece of regulation. Protecting this nations water from pollution has to be the ascendant concern of not only the EPA but ethical farmers and the US population in general. Please enact this regulation.

  19. Steven Wayne permalink
    May 30, 2014

    Thanks for sharing… nice post :)

  20. Salim Ahmed permalink
    June 5, 2014


  21. Ozge permalink
    June 6, 2014

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  22. Bryan permalink
    June 9, 2014

    This is yet another example of big government regulating more and more aspects of our lives in the interest of “helping or protecting us”. Indeed the federal government does not trust either states, counties, or individual land owners to make the correct decisions. I feel there are already too many regulations and am apposed to any expansion of them.

  23. Julie permalink
    June 9, 2014

    Ya’ll need to back off a bit and re-examine your motives. As a responsible adult, I don’t need you to come and tell me how to manage the puddles in my yard or how I water my garden. You are overstepping the boundaries. My State can handle it’s water without your hand in our back pockets. Are you trying to cause a civil war?

  24. calicut hotels permalink
    June 13, 2014

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  25. alex permalink
    June 21, 2014

    Interesting initiative but it might be hard to put in practice.
    Looking forward to the results.

    Best Regards,

  26. Scott M permalink
    June 25, 2014

    The proposed definition is fraudulent from the title, down. You attempt to define dry land as “water”. This is UN-based treaty-law. It is un-American and Unconstitutional. Get out of people’s lives.

    “Navigable Waters” means waters upon which a “vessel” can navigate — not people’s “dry” back-bards. Stop being deceptive and dishonest.

    Your posting policy prohibits “defamatory” comments, and/or “hate speech”. So, if you delete this comment, as violating one of the prohibited acts, in addition to being dishonest yourself you are not allowing others to be honest.

    • Joe Thompson permalink
      August 1, 2014

      Dry land has not ever, and still would not be regulated under the Clean Water Act. Other waters that are not “Navigable in Fact”, would continue to be regulated based on a significant nexus test.

  27. James Laubacher permalink
    June 26, 2014

    No. This is government overreach. You have too much power now.

    • Joe Thompson permalink
      August 1, 2014

      The proposal does nothing to increase government power, it only clarifies existing laws.

  28. incometer permalink
    June 30, 2014

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  29. Caleb Miles permalink
    July 18, 2014

    I really hope that this proposition has more time to change. Seriously, this will ruin family agriculture as we know it. Not only will it hurt the big guy farms and ranches, it will take out the smaller ones that are just trying to start out or make a living. Seriously, we have enough problems in this country as it is. I live on a family ranch and I don’t want to see what it took 4 generations to do get bled away a naive and overcompesating government regulation. Food prices are high enough as it is. Coming from a college student, regulating water on ag land will only make the price of food go up.

    • Joe Thompson permalink
      August 1, 2014

      As the article says, this ruling would not change any existing laws and most farming would still be exempt.

  30. johnny permalink
    August 10, 2014

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  31. david permalink
    August 17, 2014

    great article

  32. Sammy permalink
    August 18, 2014

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  33. Dan Rose permalink
    August 28, 2014

    Thanks for the article, interesting to read about the cleanliness of the US waters, will share it. My field area is car service so it is good to read about other things.

  34. fon permalink
    August 29, 2014

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    August 29, 2014

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  36. Irfan Nauri permalink
    September 9, 2014

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  37. dave reynolds permalink
    September 11, 2014

    This is pure nonsense and should be overturned and stopped. It has nothing to do with water and everything to do with control and agenda 21 from the UN. What a sad end to democracy and constitutional rights.

  38. Livpure permalink
    September 25, 2014

    I support the clean water act for the members of Congress, state and local officials, industry, agriculture, environmental groups, scientists, and the public. At large everyone needs it. Because everything concern with the clean water requirement.

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    October 11, 2014

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  46. George Waldkirch permalink
    November 26, 2014

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  47. philip permalink
    November 28, 2014

    Good post with useful info and discussion. The reactionary all-regulation-are-bad argument is counterproductive and is scant reason to oppose this important piece of regulation.
    Go ahead we support you. Regards,

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  62. jimy permalink
    March 5, 2015

    We will be holding discussions across the country, asking questions and gathering input needed to make final decisions on Clean Water Act protections.

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