Trout Unlimited today announced its support for a new Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers draft rule outlining the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. Provisions in the rule would restore protections to the many of the nation’s wetlands, lakes and streams, including waters vital to trout, salmon and anglers.
“Today’s proposal speaks to the heart of the Clean Water Act—making rivers more fishable and swimmable,” said Chris Wood, president and CEO of Trout Unlimited. “The waters affected by today’s proposal provide vital spawning and rearing habitat for trout and salmon. Simply stated, the proposal will make fishing better, and anglers should support it. Restoring protections to these waters ensures healthy habitat for fish and a bright future for anglers.”
Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006, as well as flawed agency guidance in 2007 eroded protections for thousands of miles of headwater streams previously covered by the Clean Water Act. These streams provide key spawning habitat for trout and salmon and contribute greatly to downstream water quality for municipal and agricultural use. As it stands, the draft rule will restore protections for these important waters.
The scientific basis of the rule has been established by decades of research, recently summarized by the EPA’s draft report, Connectivity of Streams and Wetlands to Downstream Water. The report accurately assessed existing research on the biological, hydrological and chemical connections that headwater streams and wetlands have to traditionally regulated bodies of water.
“Headwater streams account for more than 80 percent of the country’s stream miles, and leaving them unprotected risks the recovery of threatened species such as the Lahontan cutthroat in the Great Basin of Nevada,” said Dr. Helen Neville, a scientist with Trout Unlimited. “These trout largely exist in streams less than five miles long and 10 feet wide, and some of which may run dry during parts of the year. Ensuring sensitive waters such as these are protected from pollution and disturbance is essential to the survival of Lahontan cutthroat and other trout species alike.”
Notably, the draft rule does not alter the longstanding exemptions for irrigation ditches, farm ponds and other man-made features utilized by farmers, ranchers and foresters. Instead, it will restore protections to bodies of water which were lost over the last decade.
“Protecting headwater streams is a foundation for healthy trout and salmon habitat, and healthy habitat is a foundation for more and better fishing opportunities,” Wood said. “At the end of the day, the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers efforts to restore protections under the Clean Water Act to these headwater streams is a huge boost for America’s sportsmen and women, and the $48 billion they directly spend on fishing equipment and trips every year.”
The public can comment on the draft rule for 90 days.
Trout Unlimited is the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring North America’s trout and salmon and their watersheds. Follow TU on Facebook and Twitter, and visit us online at tu.org.