Aquatic science orgs oppose changing WOTUS

The Trump administration is expected to announce reductions to the waters protected by the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule in a couple of hours. The change is expected to remove at least some wetlands, ephemeral streams, and headwaters streams from the waters covered by the rule.

According to MSNBC,

Mark Ryan, a lawyer at Ryan & Kuehler PLLC who spent 24 years as a clean water expert and litigator at the EPA, said water systems called headwaters in high regions of the country could lose protections under the new definitions being proposed by the Trump administration.

“I think the mining is going to benefit from this because mines tend to be up in the mountains near headwater systems,” Ryan said.

Miners may no longer need to apply for a permit before pushing waste from operations, such as rubble from mountain-top coal mining in the eastern United States, into some streams.

Howe Brook

Headwater stream in Baxter State Park, Maine.

As a frequent fisherman in headwaters streams, I’m concerned about the effects on fragile trout habitats, many of which are already suffering from increased water temperatures. More importantly, though, and apparently forgotten by whoever is calling this shot, is that whatever goes into headwater streams goes into larger streams, and into small rivers, then big rivers, then the ocean.

What happens in the headwaters decidedly does not stay in the headwaters.

A coalition of aquatic science organizations has released a statement opposing the rollback:

The Consortium of Aquatic Science Societies (CASS) is deeply concerned with the proposed rule issued today by the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to replace the 2015 Clean Water Rule (Waters of the United States Rule or WOTUS). We urge the agencies to consider the far-reaching implications to our nation’s fish and aquatic resources, wildlife and communities from a narrower rule and call for any re-definition of ”Waters of the United States” to be informed by science.

More than a half century of scientific research has unequivocally demonstrated that the physical, chemical, and biological integrity of “traditionally navigable” waters fundamentally depend on ephemeral, intermittent, and perennial headwater streams, as well as the myriad associated lakes, wetlands, and off-channel habitats.

The statement is cosigned by the American Fisheries Society, the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography, the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation, the Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Society, the International Association for Great Lakes Management, the North American Lake Management Society, the Phycological Society of America, the Society for Freshwater Science, and the Society of Wetland Scientists.

Not that it’s likely to matter. When has the current administration cared what scientists have to say?

Leave a Reply