Yesterday, a Federal Judge from Arizona restored protections for ephemeral streams and wetlands throughout the nation. A couple of years, ago the Trump administration finalized its “Navigable Waters Protection Rule,” which substantially limited the scope of the Clean Water Act. That bedrock law controls the amount of pollutants and development that affect our country’s waterways. The Clean Water Act has been instrumental in conserving aquatic ecosystems, especially cold-water fisheries, for decades.
The Trump administration’s rule change was a campaign promise that matured into what many dubbed the “Dirty Water Rule.” In fact, the rule change removed Clean Water Act protections for 6,266 wetlands and 3,096 ephemeral stream reaches, according to a Trout Unlimited analysis. In the opinion, Judge Rosemary Márquez found leaving the rule in effect “would risk serious environmental harm.”
“This is a big win for common sense, science, and clean water,” said Chris Wood, president and CEO of Trout Unlimited. “It’s a great day not just for anglers, hunters, and others who love the outdoors, but for everyone who relies on clean streams and rivers for their businesses, farms, or just a glass of water…This ruling gives the EPA a chance to get it right.”
This decision has been a long time coming. However, the outcome was expected to come a little bit later from the Biden administration. Now that the Trump administration’s rule has been vacated, the current administration can continue to develop a durable, equitable, and science-based “Waters of the United States Rule,” that was announced earlier this summer. We’ll be keeping an eye out for news of any progress.
Clean water is paramount for the long term survival of fly fishing. This decision–and hopefully the revised “Waters of the United States Rule”–reinforces the idea that all water is connected and thus deserving of responsible protections.