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Great Lakes Article:

ACTION ALERT: Isolated Waters Endangered

08/04/2002

Yesterday the Washington Post published an editorial in support of the isolated waters bills introduced two weeks ago.

The Clean Water Restoration Act is H5194 & S2780. To get the drum beat going on these bills we need all of our members to contact their local editorial boards about supporting the bills.

If you would like information to help make your pitch please contact Julie Sibbing (sibbing@nwf.org) or Daniel Rosenberg (drosenberg@nrdc.org) for a copy of the NWF/NRDC isolated waters report and other helpful materials. ----------------------------------------------------------------

Save the Prairie Potholes

Washington Post
August 2, 2002; Page A26

IF YOU'RE not a farmer or a duck hunter you may never have heard of prairie potholes. These shallow ponds scattered across the Great Plains provide breeding grounds for ducks and way stations for migratory birds. They're among the wide variety of bogs, pools and inland basins, some water-filled for only part of the year, that play a critical role in maintaining wildlife, recharging underground aquifers and filtering sediment and pollutants away from groundwater. Far too many of them have been drained over the years to make way for cultivation. And the remaining ones are among the wetlands put in jeopardy by the Supreme Court last year when the justices ruled, in a 5 to 4 decision, that the Clean Water Act doesn't cover "isolated" wetlands because the statute is written to apply to navigable waters. Now a move is underway to restore federal protection to the prairie potholes and similar waters. It deserves strong support and prompt action by Congress. In the 18 months since the court acted, local jurisdictions, courts and federal officials have grappled with the question of what constitutes an isolated wetland under the Supreme Court's ruling.

The result has been a patchwork of conflicting decisions, including two federal court rulings that reached opposite conclusions about how much of a connection to navigable water was sufficient to bring a wetland under the reach of the act. Companion bills proposed in the House and Senate would end the confusion by amending the Clean Water Act to delete reference to "navigable" waters and making it clear the law is intended to protect all U.S. waters and wetlands. That's how the law was understood prior to the court's ruling last year, and how it ought to be applied now. Reasserting its broad reach could prompt a constitutional challenge to Congress' power to regulate waters contained entirely within a single state, but wherever they are located, wetlands play a critical role in flood control and water filtration, as well as providing vital living space for birds and amphibians. Even those that appear isolated on the surface are part of a complex web of groundwater supply and wildlife habitat: It makes no sense to separate them from the overall effort to protect America's waters from pollution and degradation. The sooner the law's reach is restored, the better.

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