By Chris Wood
The Little Cacapon is a small river in West Virginia with a few awesome swimming holes. The river is part of the headwaters of the Potomac River which flows through the nation’s capitol. My family and I gather frogs, look for crawfish, rough-house, catch bluegill and rockbass, and generally enjoy each other’s company in the Little Cacapon. The Little Cacapon is like 60 percent of the rest of the rivers and streams in America in that parts of it dry up in the summer months. It is what is called an intermittent or ephemeral stream.
An executive order just issued by the Trump Administration would remove the protections of the Clean Water Act for the Little Cacapon, and hundreds of thousands of miles of other headwater streams. President Trump ordered the EPA and the Corps of Engineers to “rescind” the rule that lent protections to small headwater streams, and to rely on an extremely controversial non-majority opinion of the Supreme Court that would remove protections of the Clean Water Act for 60 percent of the nation’s stream miles and 20 million acres of wetlands.
If successful, this means an energy developer would no longer need to get a permit under the Clean Water Act if they wanted to dredge the creek upstream of our swimming hole. They wouldn’t have to get a Clean Water Act permit to build a road through it or channel and divert the river to create settling ponds. In other words, the protections of the Clean Water Act would no longer apply to the Little Cacapon.
The kids are young and resilient, and they would likely think the heavy machinery needed to do that kind of work is cool. But those of us passionate about fishing know how damaging those kinds of activities can be on the small streams that provide spawning and rearing habitat for trout and salmon, and drinking water for one in three Americans.
This executive order is the opening salvo of what will be a long fight to help protect the lands and waters that define our great nation. The Little Cacapon and my kids—and the future we leave for them—will motivate me. Whether you do it for clean water, better fishing, or for your kids, get involved today. Support Trout Unlimited, and our efforts to protect the small streams that grow big fish.
Chris Wood is the president and CEO of Trout Unlimited. He works from TU’s Arlington, Va.-based headquarters.