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Lake OverholserMay 27, 2015 – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers finalized the “Waters of the U.S.” rule that defines the scope of waters that are protected under the Clean Water Act.

“Protection for many of the nation’s streams and wetlands has been confusing, complex and time-consuming,” said the EPA in a statement. “The EPA and the Army are taking this action today to provide clarity on protections under the Clean Water Act after receiving requests for over a decade from members of Congress, state and local officials, industry, agriculture, environmental groups, scientists and the public for a rulemaking.”

Following the announcement of the final rule, Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation praised the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers.

“Clean water is essential for people and wildlife everywhere. The rule released today will benefit wildlife across the country—from manatees in Florida to mallards in Minnesota,” O’Mara said. “The process worked as it should, with the Army Corps and the Environmental Protection Agency making numerous improvements and clarifications to the rule based on the public comments. The final rule balances the urgent need to protect our nation’s essential water resources with landowners’ desire for clarity. Given the significant improvements to the rule, we encourage members of Congress to end legislative efforts to undermine it and to support clean drinking water and healthy wildlife habitats.”

The interpretive rule, which was initially proposed in March 2014, has drawn harsh criticism from farmers and ranchers who fear more stringent regulation of their property. The EPA says the rule does not create any new permitting requirements for agriculture and maintains all previous exemptions and exclusions.

According to the EPA, the Clean Water Rule only protects the types of waters that have historically been covered under the Clean Water Act. The rule does not regulate most ditches, groundwater, shallow subsurface flows, or tile drains and does not make changes to current policies on irrigation or water transfers or apply to erosion in a field. Additionally, a Clean Water Act permit is only needed if a water is going to be polluted or destroyed.

In developing the rule, the agencies held more than 400 meetings with stakeholders across the country, reviewed over one million public comments and listened to perspectives from all sides. The Clean Water Rule will be effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

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