Science Wins the Day in Clean Water Act Groundwater Battle: Continued Vigilance Needed to Protect Water Quality

American Fisheries Society

It has never been more clear that science must play a key role in policy decisions impacting public health. Yet, the federal law charged with safeguarding our nation’s water, the Clean Water Act (Act), is under siege from all sides, with science in the crosshairs.

In April 2020, the Trump administration unveiled the “Navigable Waters Protection Rule” (NWPR), the final step in rolling back a science‐based definition for those waters subject to the Act’s jurisdiction. As anticipated, the rule narrowly defines “Waters of the United States” and removes protection for millions of stream miles and acres of wetlands that keep waters and watersheds healthy. The new rule threatens water quality and quantity and undermines public health at a time when communities that are plagued by pollution and lack access to safe drinking water are disproportionately impacted by COVID‐19.

To make matters worse, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has made significant changes to Section 401 of the Act that would dramatically limit longstanding state and tribal authority to ensure that projects move forward with protective conditions to minimize damage to fisheries, water quality, wetlands, and access to cultural and recreational resources.

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