Revised Definition of Waters of the United States

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Docket Number: EPA-HQ-OW-2018-0149 FRL-9988-15-OW

March 4, 2019

The Honorable Andrew Wheeler, Administrator
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of the Administrator: ‎1101A
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20460

Administrator Wheeler:

We are strongly opposed to the changes to the definition of the “Waters of the United States”, currently being proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. As members of the Choose Clean Water Coalition, we are committed to maintaining and restoring clean water to the rivers and streams throughout the Chesapeake Bay region and we rely on the Clean Water Act as the foundation of restoration and protection efforts.

The proposed changes regarding the definition of the “Waters of the United States” would be, by far, the biggest step backwards on clean water in our region since the Clean Water Act became law nearly a half century ago. And this is all occurring while EPA’s leadership has been very vocal by taking every opportunity to talk about its new mission statement, “EPA is returning to its core mission of protecting human health and the environment.” The proposed changes to the Clean Water Act contradict this basic core mission of EPA.

Approximately 11 million people (nearly two out of three) in the Chesapeake Bay watershed get their drinking water directly from the 147,149 miles of rivers and streams flowing into Chesapeake Bay. All of these rivers and streams are dependent on high quality water from the 56,689 miles of intermittent and ephemeral streams in their headwater areas, so we are extremely troubled at the proposal’s plan to remove all Clean Water Act protections for ephemeral streams and its suggestion that the final rule might also eliminate protections for intermittent streams.

Removing protections for intermittent and headwater streams throughout our region not only impacts our surface drinking water sources, but also threatens key habitat for shrinking populations of eastern brook trout. Protections would also be removed from valuable wetlands throughout our region that are critical for mitigating flooding and providing habitat for numerous species of fish and waterfowl. These wetlands are the primary reason that the Chesapeake is home to more than 1 million migratory geese, ducks and swans every winter. This great and critical part of the Atlantic Flyway would collapse if these critical wetland areas are lost.

The Chesapeake Bay Program partnership, coordinated by EPA, came together in 1983 to work to restore clean water to the 64,000 square mile watershed in Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Promulgating this rule to weaken the Clean Water Act and rollback protections would be a blow for the progress made in the Chesapeake Bay watershed in recent years.

On January 16, 2019, at your confirmation hearing in the U.S. Senate you stated, “There is no more important responsibility than protecting human health and the environment. It is a responsibility I take very seriously.” We urge you to abide by these words and to stop this attempt to weaken the Clean Water Act endangering human health and the environment in the Chesapeake region and nationwide.

Sincerely,


Action Together Northeastern Pennsylvania

American Chestnut Land Trust

American Rivers

Anacostia Riverkeeper

Anacostia Watershed Society

Annapolis Green

Arundel Rivers Federation

Audubon Maryland/DC

Audubon Naturalist Society

Audubon Society of Northern Virginia

Back Creek Conservancy

Baltimore Tree Trust

Blue Heron Environmental Network

Blue Ridge Watershed Coalition

Blue Water Baltimore

Butternut Valley Alliance

Cacapon Institute

Capital Region Land Conservancy

Catskill Mountainkeeper

Center for Progressive Reform

Chapman Forest Foundation

Chemung River Friends

Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Chesapeake Climate Action Network

Chesapeake Conservancy

Chesapeake Wildlife Heritage

Clean Fairfax

Clean Water Action

Clean Water Linganore 

Coalition for Smarter Growth

Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania

DC Environmental Network

Delaware Nature Society

Earth Conservation Corps

Earthworks

Earth Forum of Howard County

Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation

Eastern Shore Land Conservancy

Elizabeth River Project

Environmental Integrity Project

Environmental Justice Center of Chestnut Hill United Church

Environmental Working Group

Experience Learning

Float Fishermen of Virginia

Friends of Accotink Creek

Friends of Frederick County

Friends of Herring Run Park

Friends of Little Hunting Creek

Friends of Lower Beaverdam Creek

Friends of Quincy Run

Friends of Sligo Creek

Friends of the Bohemia

Friends of the Cacapon River

Friends of Dyke Marsh

Friends of the Middle River

Friends of the Nanticoke River

Friends of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River

Friends of the Rappahannock

Friends of St. Clements Bay

Goose Creek Association

Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake

James River Association

Lackawanna River Conservation Association

Lancaster Farmland Trust

Little Falls Watershed Alliance

Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper

Lynnhaven River NOW

Maryland Conservation Council

Maryland Environmental Health Network

Maryland League of Conservation Voters

Maryland Native Plant Society

Maryland Nonprofits

Maryland Science Center

Mattawoman Watershed Society

Mid-Atlantic Council Trout Unlimited

Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper

Muddy Branch Alliance

National Aquarium

National Parks Conservation Association

National Wildlife Federation

Natural Resources Defense Council

Nature Abounds

NeighborSpace of Baltimore County

New York League of Conservation Voters

New York State Council of Trout Unlimited

Neighbors of the Northwest Branch

Otsego County Conservation Association

Otsego Land Trust

Partnership for Smarter Growth

Patapsco Heritage Greenway

Patuxent Tidewater Land Trust 

PennEnvironment

PennFuture

Pennsylvania Council of Churches

Pennsylvania Council of Trout Unlimited

Piedmont Environmental Council

Potomac Conservancy

Potomac Riverkeeper

Potomac Riverkeeper Network

Potomac Valley Audubon Society

Queen Anne’s Conservation Association

Preservation Maryland

Rachel Carson Council

Restore America’s Estuaries

Rappahannock League for Environmental Protection

Richmond Audubon Society

Rivanna Conservation Alliance

Rock Creek Conservancy      

St. Mary's River Watershed Association

Savage River Watershed Association

Severn River Association

Shenandoah Riverkeeper Shenandoah Valley Network

ShoreRivers

Sidney Center Improvement Group

Sierra Club – Maryland Chapter

Sleepy Creek Watershed Association

Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project

Southern Environmental Law Center

Southern Maryland Audubon Society

SouthWings

Susquehanna Heritage

Talbot Preservation Alliance

The Downstream Project

Transition Howard County

Trash Free Maryland

Trout Unlimited

Upper Potomac Riverkeeper 

Virginia Association of Biological Farming

Virginia Conservation Network

Virginia League of Conservation Voters

Warm Springs Watershed Association

Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore, Inc.

Waterkeepers Chesapeake

West Virginia Citizen Action Group

West Virginia Environmental Council

West Virginia Highlands Conservancy

West Virginia Rivers Coalition

Wetlands Watch

Wicomico Environmental Trust