If you fish, there is no law more important than the Clean Water Act. Period. End of debate.
The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee will either uphold or gut that law tomorrow morning.
The list of rivers that have benefited from the protections of the Clean Water Act reads like a copy of the 100 Best Trout Streams: the Potomac, the Shenandoah, the Musconetcong, the Penobscot, the Housatonic, rivers all across the Driftless Area, the Au Sable, South Fork of the Snake, Falling Spring, the Deschutes, the Catskill rivers, the Feather, the Yuba, the Klamath, all of the headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay, the Blackfoot--every one of these rivers, and dozens more of the best fisheries in the country were improved because for 30 years the Clean Water Act protected their seasonal headwaters.
These headwaters are the places where the healthiest populations of native trout persist. They are the sources of clean, cold downstream water. They are critical spawning and rearing habitat.
All of that could be lost if the Senate undermines the federal government's effort to re-establish the Clean Water Act's protections to intermittent and ephemeral headwater streams.
The federal government recently proposed a rule to clarify a 10-year-old, politically charged Supreme Court ruling which undermined 30 years of protection of the Clean Water Act for small headwater streams. The court ruled that the EPA needed to prove a "significant nexus" to navigable waterways in order for the protections of the Clean Water Act to apply to intermittent and ephemeral streams and isolated wetlands. The new proposal is based on an exhaustive scientific review that demonstrate that intermittent and ephemeral streams have a significant nexus with navigable waterways.
Nearly 60 percent of all of the stream miles in the United States are small, seasonal headwater streams. The map above shows the intersection of intermittent and ephemeral streams and trout and salmon streams in California.
Through the past decade of uncertainty, the EPA did a good job of not allowing development to run rampant in these areas because they knew they would be making policy to remedy the problem created by the Supreme Court’s muddied ruling. If Congress affirmatively prevents the federal government from re-applying the protections these rivers and streams enjoyed for the first 30 years of the Clean Water Act, it will be open season on small headwater streams and the trout and salmon that depend on them.
If your Senator is on this list, call them today and tell them not to derail the federal government's effort to protect small streams that grow big fish.