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Rulemaking and the Clean Water Act

Proposed ruling, defining Waters of the United States (WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act (CWA). Uh-oh…stop right there. It’s contentious, it’s full of acronyms, and I don’t want to deal with it, you say.

But it is also one of those things that must be dealt with now, and one way that something positive can be accomplished in today’s political madness. This ruling has innumerable supporters, but the detractors are as loud as ever. While there are valid arguments on both sides, the majority of detractors are spewing typical political rhetoric. Instead, it would be more constructive to participate in the rulemaking process.

First, let us kill some myths…

“The EPA is looking to expand jurisdiction.” Nope. The EPA was asked to take on the rulemaking because of confusion created by a couple of decisions made by the Supreme Court. Those decisions had a major effect on what activities in streams and wetlands might be covered under the CWA. To government agencies and those in the construction industry the definition had become muddled. The ruling, to turn a phrase, is primarily to clear the water on the definition of WOTUS, and was requested.

“The regulations!” It is not a regulation; it is a rulemaking. Any regulations already in place will not be affected, and there will be none added. In addition, all agricultural exemptions will continue as they currently do…completely unaffected by the ruling.

“It’s a business killer.” More than 80% of American small businesses support the ruling. Besides that, clean water is indispensable in running nearly any type of business.

“Even my puddles and fencing will be regulated!”  Really? If you can’t do any better, then you need to reassess your approach.

Of course, the myths are numerous and cannot all be debunked here. The problem arises when these myths are sprinkled in with half-truths. It’s hard to tell where the lies end and true discourse begins. I leave that up to you, the reader. If you do want more information on the myths and the facts that dispel them, head on over to the EPA website.

What will be discussed here is the need for this ruling.

Toeing the line is part of human nature, and where the line as been shifted, marred, and erased in areas there are often major problems. Toledo, Ohio recently shut down their drinking water distribution system and requested that residents not drink the water due to toxic algal blooms in Lake Erie. California faces extreme drought with no end in sight. And the violations upon the nation’s water system continue to add up daily. Will the ruling cover any of it? Probably not. So lets try to keep some of the water clean while we have the chance.

Agriculture, fish, and business depend on clean water. Life depends on clean water. While this ruling is important, and necessary, does it go far enough? Maybe all ditches should be regulated. But they’re not with this rule…

No matter what you think, the rulemaking process was thorough. And by thorough, I mean that stakeholders from all of the most affected industries were included in the drafting of the rule. The EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducted an exhaustive literature review, which clearly shows that the science is irrefutable that streams and adjacent wetlands have an effect on all downstream rivers. In addition, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) was involved at every step of the drafting process. So, if agriculture trusts the USDA then there should be no problem. Of course no matter how thorough the process, something could have been overlooked. But, I’m quite sure it wasn’t the regulation of puddles. So if you want to create some constructive dialogue, then please comment on the ruling through the proper channels (here).

Now, back to life depending on clean water. Yes, humans require clean water. So do animals. That’s where we come in. Many of the waters that will be covered by this ruling are small streams and wetlands that the majority of Colorado wildlife depends on for survival. Our small streams hold some of the world’s most unique species. And our wetlands are a crucial first line of defense in preventing flooding and downstream pollution in addition to their equally unique biota. Just a few of these species include the three distinct native Colorado species of Cutthroat prized by anglers worldwide and numerous game species around the state, for which Colorado gains billions in recreation dollars each year.

By proxy, this includes the numerous small towns across the state, which depend on the influx of recreation dollars every year. For Colorado, the ruling is a business bolsterer, a town saver and a great triumph for those who drink from mountain streams (especially for those furry friends and fishes that have no other choice).

So, if you feel like telling your elected officials how important this ruling is to you, or if you feel being constructive and adding to the conversation, there is some information below to help get you started. At the moment, it would be helpful to give Governor Hickenlooper your thoughts before his office submits comments. Beyond that, feel free to add your comments where you feel they would be best represented, or contact the EPA directly.



John W. Hickenlooper, Governor, Attn:  Doug Young, Senior Policy Director

136 State Capitol

Denver, CO 80203-1782

(303) 866-2471

(303) 866-2003 (fax)

Also go to www.colorado/gov/governor and click on “Contact the Governor”, then “Write the Governor Here”, on the next page in Jurisdiction select Public Health and Environment, under Topic select “Water” or “Pollution”, in the Subject line type Waters of the U.S., in Explanation type “Please support EPA’s proposed rule that clarifies that our vital headwater streams are covered under the Clean Water Act.” Then state why you are concerned.



Sean Babbington, Legislative Assistant, Office of Senator Bennet

458 Russell Building

Washington, D.C. 20510

(202) 224-5852




Dan West, Legislative Correspondent, Office of Senator Udall

730 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20510




Regarding the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the comments are supposed to be sent to EPA, but you also can email the Corps:; and include the EPA Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2013-0820 in the subject line of the message.