While Congress Tries to Stall, New Rules Show Determination to Clean Up Impaired Waters
7/12/2000 -- -- Contact: Maggie Lockwood, TU Director of Press Relations: 703-284-9425
July 11, 2000. Washington, DC...Trout Unlimited today applauded the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) finalization of rules required by the Clean Water Act aimed at cleaning up an estimated 20,000 streams and lakes that do not meet water quality standards. The new rules are designed to improve implementation of the Act's existing Total Maximum Daily load (TMDL) program to clean up polluted waters. Despite a number of attempts by members of Congress to kill the new rule, including a late night addition of a rider on the Military Construction appropriations bill, EPA issued the rules today.
"Everyone thought that Congress had killed the TMDL rules. EPA has resuscitated them, and thankfully so," said Steve Moyer, TU's Vice President for Conservation Programs. "Congress' ill-conceived rider tried to block finalization and implementation of this vital rule. EPA's bold action today finalizes the rule, an important step, but we expect the President to sign the Military Construction bill rider into law soon, which will delay its implementation until October 2001. While we condemn the delay of improvements to a program that is still in its infancy after nearly 30 years, finalizing the rules makes it more likely that they will be implemented effectively in the future," said Moyer.
The new rules represent a valuable effort by EPA to improve the TMDL program, a key component of the 1972 Clean Water Act designed to restore polluted rivers, lakes, and coastal waters. Presently, more than 20,000 individual river segments, lakes, and estuaries are not meeting basic water quality uses, such as swimming, fishing, drinking water supply, or aquatic habitat. The TMDL program requires that EPA and the states identify all sources of pollution that impair the uses of a water body, and ensures that responsibility for reducing pollution is fairly allocated.
"The states and EPA have done a very poor job of implementing the program," said Moyer. Said Leon Szeptycki, TU's Environmental Counsel, "The agency has been slapped by dozens of lawsuits requiring them to enforce the law. The new rule is a fair, sensible way to deal with a program that clearly needs to be upgraded substantially."
The proposed rule would help set that process in motion by requiring implementation plans for each TMDL, improved water quality information, and expanded public participation in the process. The new rule is especially important for helping to get a grip on non-point pollution, precipitation-washed pollution from rural fields and urban development, that is responsible for most of the nation's current pollution problems, including the habitat destruction that has imperiled trout and salmon populations throughout the nation.
"Some in Congress claimed that the new rule imposed new regulatory requirements on farmers, builders, and communities. This just is not true. The new rule will require states to marshal existing programs and focus them on polluted waters so that those waters get cleaned up. That will take work, for sure, but it is work that needs to be done if we are going to have clean water. The EPA rules issued today show that Congress cannot turn its back on our fundamental water quality problems. We need to get to work on cleaning up our 20,000 polluted waterways," said Szeptycki.
Trout Unlimited knows non-point pollution prevention. TU volunteers have worked with l odowners, local governments, and state and federal agencies to prevent non-point source pollution with solid results for over 40 years. From the Blackfoot River in Montana, to the Kickapoo in Wisconsin, to the Beaverkill in New York, and to Kettle Creek in Pennsylvania, Trout Unlimited and its chapters have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars and spent thousands of hours to protect and restore trout and salmon rivers.
Trout Unlimited, the nation's leading coldwater conservation organization, celebrated its 40th Anniversary in 1999. TU's 500 chapters and more than 125,000 members nationwide are committed to conserving, protecting and restoring North America's trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds.