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Local Waterways Could be Affected by EPA Proposal

Photo by John K

The federal government will be at work this summer on some proposals that could affect waterways you may be familiar with, including the Edwards Aquifer and Barton Springs. The US Environmental Protection Agency says Supreme Court rulings over the last decade have weakened the Clean Water Act and removed some waterways from federal protection.

According to the EPA, under current Clean Water Act regulations, many small streams that feed into larger streams, rivers, bays and coastal waters are no longer protected by the Act. This means polluting into these waters doesn’t require a permit. The EPA is examining how to change those regulations to ensure waterways are protected.According to the EPA, the following bodies of water are not covered by the Clean Water Act:

  • Wet areas that are not tributaries or open waters and do not meet the agencies' regulatory definition of "wetlands"
  • Waters excluded from coverage under the Clean Water Act by existing regulations
  • Waters that lack a "significant nexus" where one is required for a water to be protected by the Clean Water Act
  • Artificially irrigated areas that would revert to upland should irrigation cease
  • Artificial lakes or ponds created by excavating and/or diking dry land and used exclusively for such purposes as stock watering, irrigation, settling basins, or rice growing
  • Artificial reflecting pools or swimming pools created by excavating and/or diking dry land
  • Small ornamental waters created by excavating and/or diking dry land for primarily aesthetic reasons
  • Water-filled depressions created incidental to construction activity
  • Groundwater drained through subsurface drainage systems and
  • Erosional features (gullies and rills), and swales and ditches that are not tributaries or wetlands 

That could include some streams in the Hill Country that feed into Edward’s Aquifer and Barton Springs, according to Environment Texasdirector Luke Metzger.

"Living in an era of increasing drought, we have to make sure the water we have is protected and clean," Metzger told KUT News.

But critics of the proposed regulatory changessay they would overextend EPA authority and undermine constitutional limits on federal natural resource regulation established by the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, reports on sportsman-conservationists who are frustrated by budget slashing efforts in the US House that could defund EPA's efforts to revise Clean Water Act regulations.

The EPA and Army Corps of Engineers have developed a draft proposaland are now accepting public commentson it.

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