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Entries in Clean Water Act (15)

Wednesday
Mar052014

In Keeping Our Waters Clean, Let's Be Realistic

Photo by Robert Montgomery

We all live downstream.

Thus, pollution poses an exponential threat to our waters and our fisheries. And in a perfect world, no one would pollute.

But we don’t live in a perfect world.

As a consequence, we pollute, sometimes unintentionally and sometimes flagrantly. Along the Potomac River, signs once warned that just touching the water could be hazardous to human health. Ohio’s Cuyahoga River was so polluted that it caught fire. And Lake Erie was known as a “dead sea.” The list of waters degraded and almost destroyed by pollution is a long and shameful one.

We, however, also have learned to clean up after ourselves, prompted by the federal Clean Water Act of1972. Erie now is one of the nation’s most productive fisheries. The Potomac is nationally known for its bass fishing. And the Cuyahoga, a river once devoid of fish, now is home to 44 species. The list of waters enhanced and restored is a long and hopeful one, and we arguably do more to protect our aquatic resources than any other country in the world.

That doesn’t mean that we’ve done as much as we can or should do to minimize pollution. But neither are we living in a time when rivers are catching on fire and as much needs to be done or even can be done, for that matter.

But that doesn’t keep some from trying, especially those who believe that more big government is the solution to our imperfections. That’s why the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wants to expand the definition of ‘waters of the United States’ to include water on private property.

Additionally, under new proposals, jurisdiction would extend to streams regardless of their size or how frequently they flow, as well as to ditches, gullies, and just about any low spot where moisture collects on a seasonal basis.

And that’s why the move is being heartily endorsed by environmental groups, who argue that court rulings have weakened the CWA.

“It’s taking the way the Clean Water Act works back, so that it works the way water works in the real world,” said Bob Wendelgass of Clean Water Action.

But just how far do you allow the federal government to intrude on the rights of private property owners? Those rights are a cornerstone of who we are as a nation and why so many from all over the world want to live here.

“The EPA’s draft water rule is a massive power grab of private property across the U.S,” said U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith from Texas. “This could be the largest expansion of EPA regulatory authority ever.

“If the draft rule is approved, it would allow the EPA to regulate virtually every body of water in the United States, including private and public lakes, ponds, and streams.”

While I understand and even sympathize with the environmental side of this argument, I do not support such an expansion of power using regulations written by anonymous, unelected bureaucrats. Such decisions should be left up to Congress, which represents the people.

Additionally, many who want to impose ever more strict environmental regulations upon industries, agriculture, municipalities, and now private property owners do so with unrealistic expectations. In their never-ending quest for perfection, they want to reduce pollution limits to levels that can’t even be measured.

“These folks live in la-la land,” said Bill Frazier, conservation director for the North Carolina B.A.S.S. Nation. “If you attack these things (regulations) as unrealistic, you are evil.

“What I’d really like to see is for them to sustain themselves on their own little happy ¼-acre subdivision lot. I’d be willing to bet every single one of them has a nice, cozy temperature-controlled house, pantry full of food, a sink with a spigot full of safe drinking water and a shower and toilet that take away all that nasty that they just can’t think about, much less live with, while they point fingers at everyone else.”

So . . . would I like to see an end to all pollution?  Absolutely. After all, we all live downstream.

But I believe that’s an unrealistic expectation, considering our prevalence and dominance as a species on this planet. Let’s keep trying to reduce our pollution footprint, but let’s do so with consent of the governed and with realistic standards, not those imposed by anonymous bureaucrats who live in “la-la land.”

(This opinion piece was published originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)

Friday
Feb282014

Protection From Pollution or Power Grab?

Photo by Robert Montgomery

We all live downstream.

Thus, pollution poses an exponential threat to our waters and our fisheries. And in a perfect world, no one would pollute.

But we don’t live in a perfect world.

As a consequence, we pollute, sometimes unintentionally and sometimes flagrantly. Along the Potomac River, signs once warned that just touching the water could be hazardous to human health. Ohio’s Cuyahoga River was so polluted that it caught fire. And Lake Erie was known as a “dead sea.” The list of waters degraded and almost destroyed by pollution is a long and shameful one.

We, however, also have learned to clean up after ourselves, prompted by the federal Clean Water Act of1972. Erie now is one of the nation’s most productive fisheries. The Potomac is nationally known for its bass fishing. And the Cuyahoga, a river once devoid of fish, now is home to 44 species. The list of waters enhanced and restored is a long and hopeful one, and we arguably do more to protect our aquatic resources than any other country in the world.

That doesn’t mean that we’ve done as much as we can or should do to minimize pollution. But neither are we living in a time when rivers are catching on fire and as much needs to be done or even can be done, for that matter.

But that doesn’t keep some from trying, especially those who believe that more big government is the solution to our imperfections. That’s why the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wants to expand the definition of ‘waters of the United States’ to include water on private property.

Additionally, under new proposals, jurisdiction would extend to streams regardless of their size or how frequently they flow, as well as to ditches, gullies, and just about any low spot where moisture collects on a seasonal basis.

And that’s why the move is being heartily endorsed by environmental groups, who argue that court rulings have weakened the CWA.

“It’s taking the way the Clean Water Act works back, so that it works the way water works in the real world,” said Bob Wendelgass of Clean Water Action.

But just how far do you allow the federal government to intrude on the rights of private property owners? Those rights are a cornerstone of who we are as a nation and why so many from all over the world want to live here.

“The EPA’s draft water rule is a massive power grab of private property across the U.S,” said U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith from Texas. “This could be the largest expansion of EPA regulatory authority ever.

“If the draft rule is approved, it would allow the EPA to regulate virtually every body of water in the United States, including private and public lakes, ponds, and streams.”

While I understand and even sympathize with the environmental side of this argument, I do not support such an expansion of power using regulations written by anonymous, unelected bureaucrats. Such decisions should be left up to Congress, which represents the people.

Additionally, many who want to impose ever more strict environmental regulations upon industries, agriculture, municipalities, and now private property owners do so with unrealistic expectations. In their never-ending quest for perfection, they want to reduce pollution limits to levels that can’t even be measured.

“These folks live in la-la land,” said Bill Frazier, conservation director for the North Carolina B.A.S.S. Nation.  “If you attack these things (regulations) as unrealistic, you are evil.

“What I’d really like to see is for them to sustain themselves on their own little happy ¼-acre subdivision lot. I’d be willing to bet every single one of them has a nice, cozy temperature-controlled house, pantry full of food, a sink with a spigot full of safe drinking water and a shower and toilet that take away all that nasty that they just can’t think about, much less live with, while they point fingers at everyone else.”

So . . . would I like to see an end to all pollution?  Absolutely. After all, we all live downstream.

But I believe that’s an unrealistic expectation, considering our prevalence and dominance as a species on this planet. Let’s keep trying to reduce our pollution footprint, but let’s do so with consent of the governed and with realistic standards, not those imposed by anonymous bureaucrats who live in “la-la land.” 

(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)

Friday
Jun292012

Follow Angler Issues at Sportsmen Vote 

Check out the Sportsmen Vote website, especially the Fishing section, which deals with issues related to closures, privatization of land, Catch Shares, invasive species, and the Clean Water Act.

You also can “weigh in” with comments about commentary from conservation leaders.

Friday
Jun012012

EPA Over-Reach Reflected in House Defeat of Guidance for CWA Enforcement 

Sacketts' landlocked home site was ruled a wetland by EPA, which threatened fines of more than $30,000 a day.

Regrettably, the U.S. House of Representatives has rejected an amendment that would clarify guidance for the Army Corps of Engineers and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in protecting waters and wetlands.

But in this era in which headlines and hype trump facts and reality, I’m not surprised. Not long ago, we learned what a bully the federal government can be with its enforcement of the Clean Water Act. That undoubtedly colored judgment for many who voted against the amendment.

Little more than two months ago the U.S. Supreme Court came down forcefully on the side of an Idaho couple (Sacketts) in their fight against the EPA, ruling that the couple can challenge an agency order to stop construction of their home on a property designated as a wetland.

In an opinion written by Justice Antonin Scalia, the court said the EPA cannot impose fines that could be as much as $75,000 a day without giving property owners the ability to challenge its actions.

“The reach of the Clean Water Act is notoriously unclear,” said Scalia.

“Any piece of land that is wet at least part of the year is in danger of being classified by EPA employees as wetlands covered by the act, and according to the federal government, if property owners begin to construct a home on a lot that the agency thinks possesses the requisite wetness, the property owners are at the agency’s mercy.”

The Sacketts’ home site is near a lake, but completely landlocked and within an existing subdivision.

 Yeah, I know, that seems to argue for the amendment and for clarification. But government over-reach in Idaho cast EPA and its enforcement of the Clean Water Act in a negative light for many Congressmen.

As did the comments from an EPA official regarding his policy of "crucifying" non-compliant oil and gas companies.

The Izaak Walton League, National Wildlife Federation, Trout Unlimited, and Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership provided the following information about the issue:

The U.S. House of Representatives today struck a blow against Clean Water Act protections for streams that supply drinking water to 117 million Americans and wetlands that provide critical flood protection and fish and wildlife habitat. The full House rejected an amendment to allow the Army Corps of Engineers to proceed with Clean Water Act guidance and a future rulemaking.

The FY 2013 Energy and Water Appropriations bill (HR 5325), which the House debated today, includes a provision barring the Corps of Engineers from taking any steps – next year or in any future year – to revise the agency’s guidance on waters protected by the Clean Water Act. Representatives Jim Moran (VA) and John Dingell (MI) offered an amendment to strike this damaging provision, which would allow the Corps to finalize and implement new, science-based clean water guidance.  Members of Congress who opposed this amendment voted to maintain the status quo of wetlands loss, stream pollution, and regulatory confusion.

“The vote today represented a clear choice between restoring Clean Water Act protections to critical streams and wetlands and postponing those protections indefinitely,” said Scott Kovarovics, Conservation Programs Director for the Izaak Walton League of America. “The amendment offered by Representatives Moran and Dingell provided a balanced path forward for clean water. Unfortunately, too many members of Congress chose not to take that path.”

“Clean water must be a bipartisan national priority,” said Steve Kline, Director of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s Center for Agricultural and Private Lands. “Since 1972, the Clean Water Act has made significant progress in restoring and sustaining our nation’s rivers, lakes, and wetlands. The job is not done – and votes like today’s are a step in the wrong direction.”

Loss of Clean Water Act protections for small streams and wetlands could affect more than drinking water and wildlife habitat – it could hurt the nation’s economy. Hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation contribute billions to the economy, but these activities could be sharply curtailed by water pollution and loss of wetlands critical for ducks, trout, and other wildlife.

“American sportsmen greatly appreciate the efforts of Representatives Moran, Dingell, and others as they reminded the House what it seems to have forgotten: You can’t have fishable and swimmable waters if substantial numbers of wetlands and headwater streams go unprotected by the Clean Water Act,” said Steve Moyer, Vice President for Government Affairs for Trout Unlimited. “The Senate and the Obama Administration have rejected similar ill-conceived provisions in appropriations bills the past two years, and we urge them to do it again this year.”

Wednesday
Jan112012

Izaak Walton League Celebrates 90 Years of Defending Outdoors

Long before the federal Clean Water Act was passed in the early 1970s, the Izaak Walton League was fighting against pollution and destruction of our fisheries.

The organization is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year and says the following:

“Our more than 250 chapters are rooted in communities across America, meeting local conservation challenges and working to introduce youth and families to conservation and outdoor recreation. Chapter members build nature trails, restore stream banks, and plant trees.

“Many chapters are community centers for fishing and shooting sports and offer hunter education classes and fishing clinics to promote responsible outdoor behavior and activities. League chapters also award more than $125,000 in scholarships each year to college students working toward natural resource degrees. And this is just a fraction of what Ikes do.

“As the Izaak Walton League of America reaches its 90th anniversary in 2012, we encourage our members and supporters across the country to join us in celebrating the League’s tradition of grassroots conservation activism and working to ensure the health of our natural resources for generations to come.”