A Win for Headwaters and Clean Water

Mia Sheppard

The EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Announce a Long-Awaited rule.

As an angler I depend on clean water — to drink when I’m thirsty and to stand in when I’m fishing. Clean rivers and watershed health is directly related to healthy populations of migratory salmon, trout and other native species. Also, headwaters are the heart of clean water, flowing down to fill our rivers, wetlands and streams. This is why the Clean Water Act is so important to anglers. Without cold, clean water, fish and wildlife lose habitat and anglers lose opportunity.

The Clean Water Act (CWA) establishes the basic structure for regulating discharges of pollutants into our rivers and waterways and regulates quality standards for surface waters. Under the CWA, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has implemented pollution control programs such as setting wastewater standards for manufacturers. The EPA has also set water quality standards for all contaminants in surface waters and more.

On May 27, The EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced a long-awaited rule which will restore critical protections for wetlands and headwater streams. The clean water rule will restore protections to 60 percent of America’s stream miles and 20 million acres of wetlands currently at greater risk of being polluted or destroyed because of Clean Water Act confusion.

Ben Bulis, Executive Director at AFFTA explains “Some of the best trout water in the lower 48 is located in Montana. Because of access and quality of those trout waters, world-wide fly fishing companies such as Simms Fishing Products, RL Winston, Montana Fly Company and Bozeman Reel Company have decided to set up shop in our relatively rural location — and employ hundreds of people in the process.” Protecting the health of these waters not only preserves coldwater fisheries and waterfowl habitat, but strengthens the local economies that rely on the six million jobs created by our country’s $200-billion outdoor recreation industry annually.

Today’s announcement does not expand the Clean Water Act, but rather restores—and in some cases, enhances—critical protections to two major categories of waters: tributaries to waters already covered by the Clean Water Act, and the wetlands, lakes, and other waters located adjacent to, or within the floodplain of these tributaries. In an important win for wildlife, the final rule also restores protection to some non-adjacent wetlands, which provide breeding grounds for as much as seventy percent of the nation’s duck population. “This is a historic day that all sportsmen should welcome,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

Right now we are losing ground in our fight to keep America’s waters free of toxic pollution and habitable for fish and wildlife. As an angler that adores native fish that rely on cool, clean water I applauded the clarification.

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About Mia Sheppard

Mia Sheppard is the Oregon Field Representative for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and owns Little Creek Outfitters with her husband Marty, they are both Simms Ambassadors. She lives and breathes being on the water and chukar hunting the breaks of desert rivers. When she isn’t working for the TRCP she can be found standing in a river with her husband or daughter chasing steelhead or planning the next adventure.