Posts Tagged ‘U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’

Trip Report: D.C. Fly In For Clean Water

The Huron River Watershed Council joined a delegation of river protection leaders from around the country to Washington, D.C. last week. The goal of the Fly In was to make it clear that clean water matters to all Americans across the country and along the political spectrum. Our group included representatives from 16 organizations hailing from Alaska to Oklahoma, Wisconsin to Florida, and Maine to California. Clean Water Network convened the event.

For two days, we shared first-hand stories – with each other and with federal agency representatives — about how water pollution affects our families, neighbors, and communities. We spoke in favor of holding a strong line of defense on everything from ensuring that infrastructure investments provide safe drinking water to preserving TMDLs that keep pollution in check in order to keep our rivers, lakes, and streams protected. The Trump Administration’s February Executive Order concerning the Clean Water Rule was foremost on everyone’s mind for its potential to jeopardize implementation of the Clean Water Act.

HRWC's Elizabeth Riggs and other D.C. Fly In participants visit US EPA on Pennsylvania Avenue.

HRWC’s Elizabeth Riggs and other D.C. Fly In participants visit US EPA on Pennsylvania Avenue.

On the first day, our Clean Water Network hosts provided information on the politics of conservation with the new Congress and the Trump Administration, the proposed rollbacks of the Clean Water Act, and drastic budget cuts to the US EPA and Army Corps of Engineers – the cops on the beat of enforcing our country’s environmental laws. We met with top decision makers in the Office of Water at agency headquarters. Having an audience with senior staff gave our group first-hand knowledge on topics ranging from stormwater and agricultural runoff, to the future of the Clean Water Rule and regional programs for the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay.

Day two featured a meeting with senior staff of the Army Corps of Engineers Regulatory Program to present our concerns and pose questions on a variety of topics. (Michigan is less affected by Army Corps activities than most other states since the state is authorized to implement wetlands program permitting; in 48 states, the Army Corps implements the program.) A guided boat tour of the Anacostia River from the Anacostia Riverkeeper and Anacostia Watershed Society was a highlight. We ended the Fly In with trainings to sharpen advocacy and persuasion skills, and strategizing with other Clean Water Network members to take coordinated action to protect our local waterways.

I can share a few key conclusions from the Fly In:

  • Be ready for a shorter-than-usual public input phase on the Clean Water Rule rulemaking. We need to give specific, detailed comments during the public input period as well as inundate the agency with sheer volume of comments in order to show level of public interest.
  • EPA Administrator Pruitt is interested in nutrient pollution and understands that it is a significant problem but wants to see a state-driven nutrient framework, which is consistent with this administration’s federalism bent.
  • Advocating for regional programs like the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is important, yet we also need to support EPA core programs like permitting and enforcement.
  • We need to seek support from our congressional delegation in Michigan to let them know that clean water is a priority.

I am grateful to Clean Water Network for inviting HRWC on this recent trip to DC. It is important that local watershed and river groups show up and speak to lawmakers and agency staff about issues that impact us. Americans didn’t vote for more pollution in their water, no matter how they voted in the election. If you are interested in Standing Strong for Clean Water with HRWC, join us as we come together to fight rollbacks to our bedrock clean water laws.

News to Us

Sadly, not a lot of good news has come across our desks over the past couple of weeks.  Instead, we are hearing of major losses, or potential losses, in the gains we have made with our nation’s waters over the decades since the Clean Water Act.  It is a signal that we cannot let up on our efforts to protect our freshwater, and the life it supports and the services it provides.

EPA Declares More than Half of US Rivers Unfit for Aquatic Life – A recently released report from the Environmental Protection Agency identified 55% of US rivers and stream are in poor condition for aquatic life.  Major culprits include reduced riparian vegetation, phosphorus, nitrogen, mercury and bacteria.   We are losing ground on our high quality rivers.  Only 21% of US rivers qualified as “good biological condition compared to the 27% that fell into that category in the 2004 assessment.  In the Huron, phosphorus is a big concern, as is bacterial pollution.  Learn more about local water quality here or listen to a summary of our water quality monitoring results from 2012.

Judge ends federal court oversight of Detroit Water and Sewerage Department  The utility responsible for delivering drinking water and treating wastewater for 4 million customers in Southeast Michigan has been under federal oversight for 35 years.  Oversight will now move to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality due to significant improvements in compliance with environmental regulations. The new State permit calls for additional improvements to the facility’s wastewater treatment operations.

Spring Rain, Then Foul Algae in Ailing Lake Erie  The Huron’s receiving water, Lake Erie, is in trouble.  Toxic algal blooms in the lake are getting worse causing problems for fish populations, tourism and beaches.   The lake had seen vast improvements since the Clean Water Act helped halt industrial pollution.  Now, we are losing ground primarily due to phosphorus pollution primarily from farming practices.  Climate change and zebra mussels are also cited as contributing to the problem.

Hydraulic fracturing in Michigan: Waiting for the boom  So far, the Huron River watershed and much of Michigan has not been subject to natural gas extraction via the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, process that has many states debating costs versus benefits of the method.  The method uses a lot of water and a slurry of chemicals deep into the earth.  This article shares why fracking has not yet come to our backyard and under what conditions it may.

The effort to derail ‘Biodiversity Stewardship Areas’ in Michigan  Here is another voice in the debate over Senate bill 78.  This is a very important issue to us and anyone who values our state’s natural areas and their inhabitants.  We will continue to keep you up-to-date on our website.  To learn more about the issue and how to voice your opinion see our blog Healthy Forests and Waters At-Risk in Michigan .

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