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Recommending Clean Water Protections under "Waters of the United States"

Waterway Advocates was a signatory on the below letter recommending the need to promptly restore federal clean water protections during discussions to revise the definition of “Waters of the United States."

The Honorable Michael Regan


U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

Washington, DC 20460

Mail Code 1101A

Michael Connor

Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works

Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works)

108 Army Pentagon

Washington, DC 20310-0108

Dear Administrator Regan and Assistant Secretary Connor:

On behalf of our organizations’ members and supporters, we call on you to act quickly to restore federal clean water protections as you revise the definition of “Waters of the United States”.

The kinds of waters at risk of being denied federal protection are enormously valuable. Headwaters and ephemeral and intermittent streams help provide drinking water to millions of people, support fish and estuaries prized for angling and recreation, and feed our most beloved rivers, lakes, and bays. Wetlands filter out pollutants, protect communities from flooding, and provide habitat for wildlife. In short, protecting these waterways is essential to the Clean Water Act’s core purpose -- “to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the nation’s waters.”

Moreover, protecting these waters promotes the administration’s priorities of addressing climate change and environmental justice. As climate change drives more severe storms, wetlands’ flood protection will become even more vital. And as climate change intensifies drought, more of our streams are less likely to run year-round. Preserving wetlands and streams for communities already overburdened by pollution and flooding should be viewed as an environmental justice imperative.

While your agencies’ current guidance of protecting those waters that had been covered prior to 2015 is significantly better than the recklessly limited coverage of the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, it is still inadequate to ensure clean water across the country. The EPA and Army Corps must therefore move promptly towards replacing it and adopting strong federal clean water protections that are rooted in science and consistent with the objective of the Clean Water Act to protect streams, wetlands, and lakes that our families and communities rely on.

Given the extensive prior record on the definition of waters protected under the Clean Water Act -- including widespread public comment-- the agency has all the tools it needs to complete the replacement process by the end of this year.

In order to ensure a new definition of “Waters of the United States” fulfills the promise of the Clean Water Act, the following are some of the key topics to implementing the Clean Water Act consistent with the Act's objective, in protecting families and communities, and in allowing businesses to thrive:

The scope of jurisdictional tributaries- In defining jurisdictional tributaries, the agencies should protect the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the rivers, streams, lakes, and other waters that are tributaries to interstate waters, traditional navigable waters, impoundments, territorial seas, and other waters of the United States.

The scope of adjacency- The rule must protect wetlands adjacent to other "waters of the United States" and the agencies should use their expertise and the latest science on hydrologic and functional connectivity in doing so.

Science- We need regulatory standards that are rooted in science and protective of the interconnected streams, wetlands, and other waters that are so vital to our communities and ecosystems. Establishing a sound, consistent, scientifically supported and clear definition of "waters of the United States" is a critical component of lawfully implementing the Clean Water Act.

Environmental justice interests- An unduly restrictive definition of "waters of the United States" disproportionately harms environmental justice communities. EPA has provided guidance to its rule-writers on how to incorporate environmental justice, noting in internal guidance that “it is critical that EPA rule-writers consider environmental justice (EJ) when developing a regulation.”

Climate implications- Climate change must be factored into any new definition of "waters of the United States." Nearly half of the river and stream miles in this country are already biologically impaired, and the effects of climate change will exacerbate these impairments unless greater protections are implemented. Climate change dictates the broad protection of all waters, without exclusion.

In this 50th year of the Clean Water Act, we call on you to promptly restore federal clean water protections and then strengthen protections in a second rulemaking to adequately safeguard America’s waterways.


Jack West

Policy and Advocacy Director Alabama Rivers Alliance

Birmingham, AL

Ben Wegleitner

River Sustainability Director

Cahaba River Society

Birmingham, AL

Chad Hoffman

Program Director

Coosa Riverkeeper

Birmingham, AL

Aaron McCall

Federal Advocacy Coordinator California Environmental Voters Oakland, CA

Barbara Sattler

Leadership Council Member

California Nurses for Environmental Health and Justice

Forestville, CA

Carin High


Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge

Palo Alto, CA

John Rumpler

Clean Water Program Director Environment America

Washington, D.C.

Dan Silver

Executive Director

Endangered Habitats League Los Angeles, CA

Katie Day

Environmental Science and Policy Manager Surfrider Foundation

San Clemente, CA

Melanie Winter

Founder & Director

The River Project

Los Angeles, CA

Jennifer Thurston

Executive Director

Information Network for Responsible Mining

Broomfield, CO

April Ingle

Policy Director

River Network

Boulder, CO

Tracy Kolian

Healthy policy consultant

Children's Environmental Health Network

Washington, D.C.

Carlos Ochoa

National Policy Associate


Washington, D.C.

Matthew Young

Associate Director, Policy and Government Relations

American Rivers

Washington, D.C.

Colton Fagundes

Senior Policy Manager

American Sustainable Business Network Washington, D.C.

Harriet Festing

Executive Director

Anthropocene Alliance

Washington, D.C.

Jennifer Peters

National Water Programs Director Clean Water Action

Washington, D.C.

Bart Johnsen-Harris

Senior Government Relations Representative

Defenders of Wildlife

Washington, D.C.

Aaron Mintzes

Senior Policy Counsel


Washington, D.C.

Tara Thornton

Deputy Director

Endangered Species Coalition

Washington, D.C.

Tyler Lobdell

Staff Attorney

Food & Water Watch

Washington, D.C.

Mariana Del Valle Prieto Cervantes Water Equity and Ocean Program Director GreenLatinos

Washington, D.C.

Shanna Edberg

Director of Conservation Programs Hispanic Access Foundation

Washington, D.C.

Madeleine Foote

Deputy Legislative Director

League of Conservation Voters

Washington, D.C.

Rudy Arredondo


National Latino Farmers & Ranchers Trade Association

Washington, D.C.

Chad Lord

Senior Director, Environment and Climate Policy

National Parks Conservation Association Washington, D.C.

Glenn Watkins

Water Resources Policy Specialist National Wildlife Federation

Washington, D.C.

Lorette Picciano

Executive Director

Rural Coalition

Washington, D.C.

Dalal Aboulhosn

Deputy Director of Policy, Advocacy and Legal

Sierra Club

Washington, D.C.

Dr. Rachel Silverstein

Executive Director and Waterkeeper Miami Waterkeeper

Miami, FL

Caleb Merendino

Co-Executive Director

Waterway Advocates

Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Ingrid Gronstal

Water Program Director

Iowa Environmental Council

Des Moines, IA

Hollie Conde

Legislation & Lands Coordinator Conservation Voters for Idaho

Boise, ID

Cindy Skrukrud


Boone-Dutch Creeks Watershed Alliance Woodstock, IL

Cynthia Kanner

Executive Director

Environmental Defenders of McHenry County

Woodstock, IL

Edward L Michael

Chair, Government Affairs

Illinois Council of Trout Unlimited Highland Park, IL

Molly Kordas

Staff Attorney


Chicago, IL

Don Jodrey

Director of Federal Relations

The Alliance for the Great Lakes Chicago, IL

Ashley Wilmes


Kentucky Resources Council

Frankfort, KY

Dean A. Wilson

Executive Director

Atchafalaya Basinkeeper

Plaquemine, LA

Cynthia M Sarthou

Executive Director

Healthy Gulf

New Orleans, LA

Rebecca Malpass

Policy and Research Coordinator

The Water Collaborative of Greater New Orleans

New Orleans, LA

Elizabeth Henry


Environmental League of MA

Boston, MA

Katharine Lange

Policy Specialist

Massachusetts Rivers Alliance

Cambridge, MA

Rob Moir, PhD

Executive Director

Ocean River Institute

Cambridge, MA

Katie Huffling

Executive Director

Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments

Mount Rainier, MD

Gabby Ross

Assateague Coastkeeper

Assateague Coastal Trust

Berlin, MD

Alice Volpitta

Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper

Blue Water Baltimore

Baltimore, MD

Jared Mott

Conservation Director

Izaak Walton League of America Gaithersburg, MD

Kim Coble

Executive Director

Maryland League of Conservation Voters Annapolis, MD

Raimee Eck

Advocacy Committee Co-chair

Maryland Public Health Association Maryland

Nina Beth Cardin


MD Campaign for Environmental Human Rights

Baltimore, MD

Audrey Magnuson

Coast and Oceans Program Coordinator Rachel Carson Council

Bethesda, MD

Mark Southerland

Legislative Director

Safe Skies Maryland

Columbia, MD

Elle Bassett

Miles-Wye Riverkeeper


Easton, MD

Liz Kirkwood

Executive Director

For Love of Water (FLOW) Traverse City, MI

Megan Tinsley

Water Policy Director

Michigan Environmental Council Lansing, MI

Trevor A Russell

Water Program Director

Friends of the Mississippi River St. Paul, MN

Whitney Tawney

Executive Director

Montana Conservation Voters Bozeman, MO

Carrie Clark

Executive Director

NC League of Conservation Voters Raleigh, NC

Edgar Miller

Riverkeeper/Executive Director Yadkin Riverkeeper

Winston-Salem, NC

Curtis Stofferahn

Chairman of the DRC Board Dakota Resource Council

Bismarck, ND

George R Cunningham

Board Member

Nebraska Wildlife Federation Omaha, NE

Kai Mateo

Federal Climate Campaign Manager New Jersey League of Conservation Voters Hamilton, NJ

Eileen Murphy

Vice President

NJ Audubon

Trenton, NJ

Laurie Howard

Executive Director

The Passaic River Coalition

Morristown, NJ

Rachel Conn

Deputy Director

Amigos Bravos

Taos, NM

Eugene Pickett

National Field Manager

The National Latino Farmers and Ranchers/Black Farmers and Ranchers, New Mexico

Jarales, NM

Joshua Klainberg

Senior Vice President

New York League of Conservation Voters New York, NY

Sandy Bihn

Executive Director

Lake Erie Waterkeeper

Toledo, OH

Peter Bucher

Managing Director of Water Policy Ohio Environmental Council

Columbus, OH

Rev. Sandra L. Strauss

Director of Advocacy & Ecumenical Outreach

Pennsylvania Council of Churches Harrisburg, PA

Queen Quet

Secretary and Founding Member Gullah Geechee Fishing Association St. Helena Island, SC

Nick Halberg

Research & Policy Analyst

Utah Rivers Council

Salt Lake City, UT

Lauren Hierl

Executive Director

Vermont Conservation Voters

Montpelier, VT

Mindy Roberts

Puget Sound Program Director Washington Environmental Council and Washington Conservation Voters Seattle, WA

Cheryl Nenn

Riverkeeper Milwaukee Riverkeeper

Milwaukee, WI

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