Across the country, trout fishing is finally warming up after a bitter winter. Streams in the Rockies are flush with snowmelt. In the East, spring rains mean small brook trout streams are roaring. Come late summer, though, many of these waters where you’re catching fish now may be reduced to trickles. These streams may run only seasonally, but they’re incredibly important for spawning and rearing juvenile trout and salmon. Healthy headwaters also provide the foundations of water quality that larger downstream rivers are built on.
It’s exactly these kinds of small but important headwaters to which the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers are trying to restore the protections of the Clean Water Act. These streams were protected for the first three decades of the law, but two Supreme Court decisions severely weakened these protections. Chris Wood, President and CEO of Trout Unlimited, had this to say about the history, and future of the Clean Water Act:
Upstream from where TU’s offices are, Chris owns property in West Virginia with a small stream that runs through it, which eventually finds its way to the Potomac and then downstream to DC. Many of us in the national office have spent countless hours fishing headwater streams in Shenandoah National Park that eventually flow into the Potomac. Whether you’re fishing brookies in small streams, shad in the city, or just drinking the water, protecting these headwaters matters.
Last month, the EPA and Corps released a proposal to clarify which waters are covered under the Clean Water Act, and importantly, which ones are not. TU works with farmers, ranchers, and foresters to restore and protect trout streams all over the country. We want to make sure the agencies find an appropriate way to balance the needs of our country’s farmers with conservation. We also encourage you to read the rule and see that the agencies do not intend to regulate the agricultural activities that have long been exempted under the law.
Across the country, many people have stories similar to Chris. They’ve seen with their own eyes what the Clean Water Act has done to restore and protect trout streams. TU strongly supports this proposal, and by taking action today, you can make sure Clean Water Act stays strong for future generations.