State by State Threats from Confusing Clean Water Act Rules

Supreme Court decisions from 2001 and 2006 created uncertainty about what types of waters the Clean Water Act protects, especially those that are geographically isolated from others, as well as headwater streams or ones that lack permanent flow. The Waters of the United States rule, or WOTUS, will likely try to clarify to extent of the Clean Water Act specifically related to the uncertainty created by the Supreme Court. Until this uncertainty is resolved, streams and wetlands around the Great Lakes are at a higher risk of being polluted or destroyed.

 

Minnesota
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that more than 978,000 Minnesotans receive some of their drinking water from areas containing smaller streams—the kind that are threatened by this regulatory uncertainty.

 

In 2011, more than 1.5 million anglers spent more than $2.4 billion in Minnesota. Much of that activity depends on clean and healthy aquatic habitat.

 

The WOTUS rule will better protect Minnesota’s remaining prairie wetlands, which provide important flood storage, water filtration, and wildlife habitat benefits. Minnesota has lost about half of its wetlands, with heavy losses in southern and western Minnesota.

 

Wisconsin
Close to 400,000 people in Wisconsin get some or all of their drinking water from public systems that rely at least in part on small and seasonal streams, the kind that may not be protected by the Clean Water Act as the law currently stands. All of the public drinking water systems in Ashland, Brown, Marinette, and Outagomie Counties are fed at least in part by these small at risk streams.

 

Using data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the American Sportfishing Association estimates that anglers in Wisconsin generated more than $1.4 billion in economic activity in 2011. Fishing supported more than 21,000 jobs and generated more than $315 million in local, state and federal tax revenue. Many fish depend on healthy streams and wetlands for part of their life cycle and would benefit from clear Clean Water Act regulations.

 

Intact small streams and wetlands reduce the intensity and frequency of floods by absorbing significant amounts of water and slowing the flow of water downstream. A single acre of wetland can store 1 to 1.5 million gallons of flood water, and just a 1% loss of a watershed’s wetlands can increase total flood volume by almost 7%. Wetlands need clear protection and would likely benefit from the WOTUS rule.

 

Illinois
At least 55 percent of Illinois streams and 60 percent of the state’s remaining wetlands have been at risk of uncontrolled pollution and filling for more than a decade due to the confusion created by Supreme Court rulings.

 

More than 1.68 million Illinoisans get some or all of their drinking water from public drinking water systems that rely at least in part on small streams that may or may not be covered by the current Clean Water Act.

 

Illinois has lost 85% of its wetlands – wetlands that historically provided important flood storage, water filtration, and fish and wildlife habitat. Indeed, a single wetland can store 1 to 1.5 million gallons of floodwater. The WOTUS rule will likely help protect Illinois’ remaining wetlands.

 

Intact small streams and wetlands provide vital habitat for fish and wildlife that support a strong recreational industry in Illinois.  More than 100 bird species utilize Illinois wetlands, along with 40 percent of Illinois’ threatened and endangered species. The WOTUS rule would likely clarify how these wetlands and streams would be protected under the Clean Water Act.

 

Sportfishing alone contributed more than $1.7 billion to the Illinois economy in 2011, while the fishing industry supported more than 13,000 jobs. Fish would benefit from clear protections of streams and wetlands under the Clean Water Act.

 

Indiana
Over 50 percent of Indiana’s stream miles are headwater streams and 34 percent do not flow year-round. These waters have been at risk for the past decade and will likely be better protected with the WOTUS rule.

 

More than 1.7 million Indiana residents receive some of their drinking water from areas containing these smaller, potentially unprotected streams.

 

Indiana has lost 87% of its wetlands – wetlands that historically provided valuable flood storage, water filtration, and fish and wildlife habitat. Over 300,000 acres of Indiana’s remaining wetlands may be considered “isolated” waters particularly vulnerable to losing Clean Water Act safeguards. Indiana’s remaining wetlands will likely be better protected under the WOTUS rule.

 

In 2011, there were more than 800,000 anglers in Indiana who spent over $693 million in the state, supporting more than 10,000 jobs. Wetlands provide shelter, food supply, spawning and nursery areas for 90 percent of fish caught by American recreational anglers.  Intact small streams and wetlands provide vital habitat for fish and wildlife that support a strong recreational industry in Indiana and which would likely have stronger protections under the WOTUS rule.

 

 

Michigan
Michigan has more than 51,000 miles of streams. Almost half of these streams do not flow year round, making their protection under the Clean Water Act, as it currently stands, questionable. EPA estimates that more than 1.4 million Michiganders receive some of their drinking water from areas containing these smaller streams.

 

In 2011, sportfishing alone brought more than $2.4 billion to the Michigan economy. Michigan is ranked second out of all states as a non-resident fishing destination, with annual non-resident expenditures of more than $326 million.  This economic activity is largely dependent on clean and healthy aquatic habitat, the kind that would likely be bolstered by the WOTUS rule clarifications.

 

Michigan has lost 50% of its wetlands – wetlands that provide critical fish and wildlife habitat. Half of Michigan’s threatened or endangered species need healthy, fully functional wetlands to complete their life cycle.  Several of these plants and animals inhabit Michigan’s “isolated” wetlands; wetlands that have been at risk of losing Clean Water Act protection for the last decade. And wetlands do more than provide critical habitat – they also filter polluted water and reduce the risk of flooding.

 

Ohio
About 60 percent of Ohio’s 166,962 miles of streams are headwater streams and 45% do not flow year round. These at-risk streams will likely be better protected with the WOTUS rule.

 

Ohio has lost 90 percent of its wetlands, the second highest loss rate in the nation. Two-thirds of the state’s threatened and endangered species require wetlands during some point in their life cycle. Ohio’s remaining 483,000 acres of wetlands and the wildlife they support will likely benefit from greater protections under WOTUS.

 

EPA estimates that more than 5.2 million Ohioans receive some of their drinking water from areas containing these smaller streams that may not be covered by the current interpretation of the Clean Water Act.

 

In 2011, sportfishing alone brought more than $1.9 billion in economic activity to Ohio; more than 26,000 jobs are tied to sportfishing.  Much of that activity depends on clean and healthy aquatic habitat, made possible by clear Clean Water Act rules.

 

Pennsylvania
Over 83,000 miles of streams and rivers run through Pennsylvania. More than half of these stream miles flow intermittently or are headwater streams with no other streams flowing into them. These headwater and intermittent streams make up the network of waterways that support the state’s rivers and lakes and have been at risk for more than a decade due to confusion over the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act.

 

According to the EPA, more than 8 million Pennsylvanians receive some of their drinking water from areas containing these smaller, potentially unprotected streams.

 

Pennsylvania streams and wetlands support a strong outdoor recreation economy.  In 2011, sportfishing alone brought more than $502 million to the Pennsylvania economy, supporting more than 9,000 jobs.  This economic activity is dependent on clean water and healthy habitats that need strong Clean Water Act Protections to stay that way.

 

Vernal pool wetlands have been most at risk for the past decade while the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act remains unclear.  These shallow, mostly-forested wetlands often dry up seasonally. They can range in size from 100 square feet to several acres, and they make excellent habitat for amphibians and reptiles. In Pennsylvania, species such as the Bog Turtle, the New Jersey Chorus Frog and the Coastal Plain Leopard Frog rely heavily on these wetlands.

 

 

New York
EPA estimates that more than 11 million New Yorkers receive some of their drinking water from areas containing these smaller streams, which could fall outside of the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act.

 

In 2011, New York State had the second highest rate of expenditures by anglers, totaling more than $2.6 billion with more than 1.8 million anglers.  Much of that activity depends on clean and healthy aquatic habitat, supported by a strong Clean Water Act.

 

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