(Logo is from NACo website)
An October 31 National Association of Counties (NACo) news alert reported that the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Science Advisory Bureau (SAB) has released their review of the EPA’s draft stream connectivity report that is being used to justify a proposed definitional change to “waters of the United States” under the federal Clean Water Act [CWA]. The proposed change could have negative effects for counties, particularly regarding road and drainage ditches and stormwater management structures. From the news alert:
On October 17, the [SAB] released their review of EPA’s draft report on the Connectivity of Streams and Wetlands to Downstream Waters: A Review and Synthesis of the Scientific Evidence (September 2013 External Review Draft.) The report is relevant for counties who own and maintain public safety infrastructure such as roads and roadside ditches, drainage, stormwater and other types of ditch infrastructure. The proposed “waters of the U.S.” rule defines, for the first time, a tributary as “rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, impoundments, canals, and ditches…” As such, all tributaries are considered “waters of the U.S.” and must be federally regulated under the proposed rule.
The 100+ page scientific review agrees with EPA’s assessment that streams and wetlands are connected with larger water bodies such as rivers, lakes, estuaries and oceans, however, also suggests the “connections should be considered in terms of a connectivity gradient.” The recommendations include defining connectivity based on the “frequency, duration, magnitude, predictability, and consequences of those connections.” However, the report also notes that streams that show low connection may also impact downstream waters significantly.
The proposed rule on Definition of Waters of the U.S. Under the [CWA] was jointly released by the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on April 21. It is open for public comment until November 14, 2014.