Executive Action to regulate wetlands, streams, and tributaries …

President Obama has taken executive action regulating wetlands, streams and tributaries of larger waterways. The administration said this action was necessary to clarify rules under the Clean Water Act…

“We’re finalizing a clean water rule to protect the streams and the wetlands that one in three Americans rely on for drinking water. And we’re doing that without creating any new permitting requirements and maintaining all previous exemptions and exclusions,” EPA head Gina McCarthy told reporters Wednesday.

McCarthy and other Obama officials sought to emphasize that the rule is about increasing clarity for businesses and helping make it easier to determine which waterways are subject to the pollution rules of the Clean Water Act.

“This rule is about clarification, and in fact, we’re adding exclusions for features like artificial lakes and ponds, water-filled depressions from constructions and grass swales,” she said

“This rule will make it easier to identify protected waters and will make those protections consistent with the law as well as the latest peer-reviewed science. This rule is based on science,” she continued.

The new regulations will help the EPA control pollutants from these waterways and help prevent issues like algal blooms.

“There is nothing complicated about the idea that we should protect the tributary system that flows into our nation’s rivers,” said David Uhlmann, a law professor at the University of Michigan who previously led the prosecution of environmental crimes at the Justice Department. “What is more difficult is deciding when to protect wetlands, which perform essential ecological functions but often make it difficult or impossible for landowners to develop their property.”

These new rules have not come about without significant opposition…

The American Farm Bureau has led the opposition. “The proposed rule provides none of the clarity and certainty it promises,” the bureau wrote in a letter to Congress. “Instead, it creates confusion and risk by providing the agencies with almost unlimited authority to regulate, at their discretion, any low spot where rainwater collects.” That could include farm ditches, agricultural ponds and isolated wetlands, it said. “The proposed rule provides none of the clarity and certainty it promises,” the bureau wrote in a letter to Congress. “Instead, it creates confusion and risk by providing the agencies with almost unlimited authority to regulate, at their discretion, any low spot where rainwater collects.” That could include farm ditches, agricultural ponds and isolated wetlands, it said.

The EPA has a website up to explain the changes and clarify the Clean Water rules.