Clean Water Restoration Act
Thirty-seven years ago, Congress passed the Clean Water Act to protect the nation’s waters from pollution and outright destruction. For over thirty years, this critically important law applied very broadly, protecting rivers large and small, streams, creeks, headwaters tributaries, and wetlands. All that changed with a pair of Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006. These decisions severely restricted the reach of the Clean Water Act, and deprived many wetlands, intermittent and ephemeral streams, and even large rivers of its protection.
As a result, EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers have been unable to prevent developers and others from filling in crucial wetlands, or prosecuting polluters who illegally discharge their waste into our waters. According the U.S. EPA, 59 percent of the nation’s streams and rivers, measured in miles, fall into the classes of waters no longer protected. Because source water protection areas containing these small or intermittent streams and rivers provide water to public drinking water supplies serving more than 110 million Americans, a failure to protect them could result in a serious public health crisis.
The wetlands no longer protected under the Clean Water Act also provide important functions in our watersheds. Wetlands reduce flooding, provide habitat to ducks and other wildlife, including many threatened and endangered birds, and help to recharge our drinking water aquifers.
Reversing these disastrous decisions has been a legislative priority for the past two years. Finally, with a supportive Administration in the White House and a Democratic majority in both Chambers of Congress, we are closer than ever to re-affirming our rights to safe, clean, drinkable and swimmable waters. Senator Russ Feingold, with the support of Senator Barbara Boxer, has reintroduced the Clean Water Restoration Act which will once again extent the reach of the Act to all of the “waters of the United States.” The Act was voted out of a Senate committee on June 18th, 2009 and may soon head to the full Senate for a vote.
For more information about CWRA and the protections of the Clean Water Act, visit: http://www.cleanwaternetwork.org//issues/scope/index.cfm