Great Lakes News

Great Lakes News

Obama Proposes Rule to Protect Great Lakes

On Tuesday, March 25, the Obama Administration proposed a "water of the United States" rule that will clarify which U.S. waters are protected from pollution and degradation under the Clean Water Act of 1972. According to an article published in the Washington Post, the proposal would lead to stricter pollution controls for some areas and would restore the protection of many waters originally acknowledged by the Clean Water Act. The proposal will be subject to a 90-day public comment period.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website says the plan will reduce confusion about Clean Water Act protection, clarify the types of water covered under the Act, save businesses time and money, and help states to protect their respective waters.

This announcement comes just weeks after President Obama released the proposed 2015 budget, which cut the $300 million Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding by $25 million dollars. The project was intended to address urgent threats to the Great Lakes, such as toxic pollution and invasive species. 

In response to the new "waters of the United States" proposal, Larry Schweiger, National Wildlife Federation president and CEO, said, "This is a huge step forward for protecting America’s waters and wildlife. You cannot tear out a tree’s fine roots and expect it to survive. The streams and wetlands protected by this rule supply drinking water to more than one-third of all Americans. Our rivers, lakes and bays will be cleaner and healthier once this rule becomes the law of the land."

According to the Washington Post article, this ruling will be the first time that specific agricultural practices that are exempt from Clean Water Act regulation are clarified. The EPA and Army Corps and the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA NRCS) worked together to determine which practices would be exempt.

Todd Ambs, campaign director of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, said "Forty two years ago Congress passed a law to clean up the waters of the United States. This rule will clarify how the law works to protect our waterways and, in particular, our Great Lakes. After all, it isn't called the 'Partially Clean Water Act.' At a time when we’re seeing federal Great Lakes restoration investments deliver results in communities across the region, this rule will help ensure that those gains are protected. This rule can help ensure that as we take one step forward, we aren’t also taking two steps back.”

Photo by Steve Jurvetson