The Obama administration enacted regulations to protect some sensitive bodies of water, but the Trump administration removed those protections.
Now the Biden administration plans to protect them again.
Changing the Waters of the U.S. protections under the Clean Water Act meant about 25% of the waterways were no longer protected. Some headwater streams and wetlands don’t have water all the time, but when they do, they need to be protected from pollution and silt. Keeping them pristine is important to wildlife such as fish and frogs downstream.
Chris Wood is the President and CEO of the conservation group Trout Unlimited.
“Fish need clean water every day, trout in particular. It's really important that these smaller streams receive the protections of the Clean Water Act,” Wood said.
But he says the Obama EPA issued some confusing definitions about what was to be protected.
Farmers and developers were not sure when they needed to get a permit or what was a violation. They felt the uncertainty was not fair.
Wood thinks the Biden administration will work with farmers and builders to give them more certainty.
“I think the Biden administration has a chance to bring people together, provide the protection for those headwater streams, but then also provide the certainty that the industry needs so they can make investments in in development,” he said.
He says it will likely take a couple of years to get everyone’s input and ensure the ephemeral streams and wetlands are protected again.
“I'm just predicting that they'll create enough public process, enough time for scientific review, that they end up with a rule that's more durable than, for example, the Trump administration's rule is going to turn out to be.”
It’ll take some time. Wood says to get everybody’s input on the new rule could take a couple of years.