EPA and Army Finalize Rule Establishing WOTUS Definition and Restoring Basic Water Protection Measures

WASHINGTON – Today, t.The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of the Army (agencies) have announced a final rule establishing a strong definition of “Water of the United States” (WOTUS) to reduce uncertainty due to changing regulatory definitions, protect human health, and support economic possibilities. The final rule restores the basic water resources protections that were in place prior to 2015 under the Clean Water Act for traditional navigable waters, territorial seas, interstate waters, and upstream waters that significantly affect those waters. As a result, this action will strengthen the fundamental protection of waters, which are sources of drinking water, while supporting agriculture, the local economy and downstream communities.

“When Congress passed the Clean Water Act 50 years ago, it recognized that protecting our waters is essential to ensure public health and a prosperous economy.” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “After extensive stakeholder engagement and based on what we have learned from previous regulations, the EPA is working to create a robust definition of WOTUS that protects our nation’s waters, expands economic opportunity, and protects human health, providing more confidence for ranchers and farmers. and landowners.

“This final rule recognizes the important role that national water resources play in communities across the country,” it said in a statement. Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Michael L. Connor. “A clear and acceptable definition of the waters of the United States in the rule will allow it to be implemented more efficiently and effectively and provide the clarity that farmers, industry, environmental organizations and other stakeholders have long desired.”

This rule establishes a robust definition of “United States water” based on the authority granted by Congress in the Clean Water Act, the best available scientific evidence, and extensive implementation experience in national water management. The rule returns to a sensible and familiar basis based on the pre-2015 definition, with updates to reflect existing Supreme Court decisions, the latest scientific advances, and the agencies’ technical expertise. It establishes limits that properly define the boundary of federally protected waters.

The final rule restores fundamental protections to bring the nation closer to meeting Congress’ goal in the Clean Water Act that American waters be fishable and swimmable, and above all, to protect public health. It also ensures that the nation’s waters support recreation, wildlife and agricultural activities, which are fundamental to the American economy. The final rule will cover those waters that Congress fundamentally sought to protect in the Clean Water Act—traditional navigable waters, territorial seas, interstate waters, and upstream water resources that significantly affect those waters.

More information, including preview Federal Register notices and newsletters are available at United States Waters EPA website.

Coinciding with the release of the final rule, agencies are also committing several resources to support clear and effective implementation in communities across America. Today results of 10 regional round tables was released summarizing the key actions that agencies will take to expand and improve the implementation of “United States Water”. These actions were recommendations presented during 10 regional roundtables where agencies heard directly from communities about what works well in terms of implementation and where there is room for improvement. The roundtables focused on geographic similarities and differences between regions, and provided individual feedback on how scale “waters of the United States” was implemented by the agencies.

Today, the agencies are also taking steps to improve federal coordination in the ongoing implementation of the “water of the United States.” First, the EPA and the Army issue joint coordination memorandum to ensure the accuracy and consistency of jurisdictional determinations in accordance with this final rule. Second, agencies issue memorandum with USDA bring clarity to agency programs under the Clean Water Act and the Food Security Act.

Background
June 9, 2021 Environmental Protection Agency and Department Army announced thThey intend to redefine “water of the United States” to better protect our country’s vital water resources that support public health, environmental protection, agricultural activity, and economic growth. On November 18, 2021, the agencies announced that they had signed a proposed rule revising the definition of “water of the United States of America”.“.

The Clean Water Act prohibits the discharge of point source pollutants into “navigable waters” unless otherwise permitted by law. “Navigable Waters” is defined in the Act as “the waters of the United States, including the territorial seas.” Thus, “waters of the United States” is a threshold term establishing the geographic scope of federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. The term “waters of the United States” is not defined by the Act, but has been defined by the agencies in regulations since the 1970s and has been jointly implemented in the agencies’ respective programming activities.

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