Coalition Report

By Lorin Crandall
Missouri Coalition for the Environment

Cleaning Up The Clean Water Act

Have you ever wondered why we allow industrial dumping in some streams but not in others? Although we have a federal Clean Water Act and state water quality standards, we have had to rely on the courts to address controversy over which waters deserve protection under the law. The EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have recognized the need to clarify how the Clean Water Act applies to certain lower profile water bodies, such as wetlands and small streams. We now have the opportunity to save a lot of time and money by clarifying what is protected, instead of litigating over every stream and marsh, and ensure long-term protections for a resource we all depend on.

Smaller streams and wetlands deserve protection because they are integral to a healthy, functioning water system. They trap floodwaters, recharge groundwater supplies, remove pollution, and provide valuable habitat for fish and wildlife. In Missouri, clean, healthy streams are important to local economies, which depend on hunting, fishing, and recreation on our rivers. Seasonal, rain-dependent, and headwater streams help provide fresh drinking water. And, as any kid who grew up near a creek can attest, small streams provide access to adventures, exploration and wildlife; they truly are some of our most treasured—and accessible—places.

Effective protection requires understanding the role these small streams and wetlands play. The EPA and Corps’ proposed Clean Water Protection rule is based on a vast body of scientific literature that recognizes these vital connections between small streams and wetlands to the downstream waters that we all depend on.

Earlier this year, the State of Missouri took steps to update our state’s water quality standards, a long overdue improvement that should have been completed in the 1980’s. Unfortunately, Missouri’s updates still fall short of the protections required by the Clean Water Act when it was passed in 1972. The EPA’s newly proposed rule would mean that Missouri is even farther behind in protecting its waters. For example, Missouri’s updated standard does not include wetlands and thousands of miles of rivers and streams. The Missouri Coalition for the Environment has fought for water protections for decades and we encourage everyone in St. Louis who drinks water, plays in water, or fishes in water to send a comment to the EPA supporting the Clean Water Protection Rule to protect Missouri’s extraordinary water resources.

For more information please visit www.moenviron.org or follow us on Twitter: @MoEnviron