The Bush administration announced Monday that it is moving forward with the Clean Water Act rule designed to protect wetlands and streams.
The final rule had been scheduled to take effect on Feb. 16, but was delayed for 60 days by the White House.
This new Clean Water Act rule is a joint regulation of the Army Corps of Engineers and EPA to limit the environmental destruction caused by discharges into wetlands and streams caused by landcleaning, ditching, channelization and other excavation activities that take place in waters.
"The Bush administration is committed to keeping our waterways clean and safe," said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman. "The protection of America''s vanishing wetlands is a vital step toward ensuring cleaner water for everyone. In addition to serving as habitat for wildlife, wetlands help filter and protect our country''s water supply. This action will help preserve our wetlands for ourselves and for future generations."
Wetlands are a collective term for marshes, swamps, bogs and similar areas. They filter and cleanse the nation''s waters, help retain flood waters and provide spawning areas for fish.
They are natural filters for toxins, heavy metals, nutrients and other pollutants because the vegetation and wet soil trap toxins and sediments.
Environmental groups expressed their support for the administration''s endorsement of the act.
"We support the administration''s decision to release this rule from regulatory limbo and move forward in protecting critical water resources," said Joan Mulhern, legislative counsel for Earthjustice. "This is an important development, but not the last word on wetlands and streams. The true test of the administration''s commitment to clean water protection will be whether it aggressively implements the rule on the ground and faithfully defends it from industry attacks in court."
Howard Fox, managing attorney for the Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund and the lawyer for environmental groups who intervened in an industry challenge to a previous version of the Clean Water Act, reiterated Mulhern''s thoughts.
"The EPA''s press release indicates support for this rule and a commitment to wetlands protection," Fox added. "We will take them at their word that what they mean to defend this rule -- and we will hold them to their word."
by Virginia Sutcliffe