by Tom Damm
It was a busy day for the nation’s highest ranking water official and our EPA Regional Administrator on June 12 as they participated in a series of activities to bring attention to and clear up misconceptions about an important clean water proposal.
The day for EPA Acting Assistant Administrator for Water Nancy Stoner began with a radio show broadcast live on two NPR stations in central Pennsylvania. Nancy fielded questions from Smart Talk host Scott Lamar for a half hour on a rule designed to clarify protections under the Clean Water Act for streams and wetlands that form the foundation of our nation’s waters.
You can hear it here.
The proposed Waters of the U.S. rule was also the topic as Nancy was joined by Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin at the Berks County Agricultural Center in Leesport, PA for a two-hour roundtable discussion with farmers and other members of the agriculture industry.
As part of a productive dialogue, Nancy and Shawn explained that the proposed rule preserves existing Clean Water Act exemptions and exclusions for agricultural activities and has additional benefits for the farming community.
Then it was on to Valley Forge National Historical Park for a rendezvous with dozens of kayakers, anglers and others participating in the 16th Annual Schuylkill River Sojourn.
The sojourners had arrived for lunch at the park on Day 6 of their trip down the Schuylkill – named the 2014 River of the Year in Pennsylvania.
There was some intermittent light rain as the river enthusiasts gathered on benches under rows of overhangs to eat some food and gain some unexpected attention from the Philadelphia media gathered to hear the EPA officials. Nancy told the assembled group that, “The question today is what can we do to make sure that we are leaving behind waters that are useable, waters that are safe to drink, waters that are safe to swim in, to kayak in, to eat fish from.”
By clarifying the scope of the Clean Water Act, Nancy said, “We can make the system work a lot better, more efficiently, more cost effectively, and ensure that those stream systems are protected for the future.”
After the talk, the kayakers headed back to the river’s edge, ready to begin their next leg on the sojourn and hoping to beat the heavier rain expected later in the day. Nancy and Shawn stayed a while longer to talk to others interested in the clean water rule.
The public comment period for the rule has been extended to October 20, 2014.
About the Author: Tom Damm has been with EPA since 2002 and now serves as communications coordinator for the region’s Water Protection Division.