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Water: Water Headlines

Week of May 2, 2011

1) “Waters of the U.S.” Proposed Guidance
2) EPA Launches New Strategy to Promote Use of Green Infrastructure for Environmental and Economic Benefits
3) EPA Celebrates American Wetlands Month: Learn! Explore! Take Action!
4) EPA Announces Release of Re-Energizing the Capacity Development Program Report

1) “Waters of the U.S.” Proposed Guidance
Americans depend on clean and abundant water. However, over the past decade, interpretations of Supreme Court rulings removed some critical waters from Federal protection, and caused confusion about which waters and wetlands are protected under the Clean Water Act. As a result, important waters now lack clear protection under the law, and businesses and regulators face uncertainty and delay. The Obama Administration is committed to protecting waters on which the health of people, the economy and ecosystems depend.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have developed draft guidance for determining whether a waterway, water body, or wetland is protected by the Clean Water Act. This guidance would replace previous guidance to reaffirm protection for critical waters. It also will provide clearer, more predictable guidelines for determining which water bodies are protected by the Clean Water Act.

The draft guidance will reaffirm protections for small streams that feed into larger streams, rivers, bays and coastal waters. It will also reaffirm protection for wetlands that filter pollution and help protect communities from flooding. Discharging pollution into protected waters (e.g., dumping sewage, contaminants, or industrial pollution) or filling protected waters and wetlands (e.g., building a housing development or a parking lot) require permits. This guidance will keep safe the streams and wetlands that affect the quality of the water used for drinking, swimming, fishing, farming, manufacturing, tourism and other activities essential to the American economy and quality of life. It also will provide regulatory clarity, predictability, consistency and transparency.

The draft guidance will be open for 60 days of public comment to allow all stakeholders to provide input and feedback before it is finalized.

Read more at http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/guidance/wetlands/CWAwaters.cfm

2) EPA Launches New Strategy to Promote Use of Green Infrastructure for Environmental and Economic Benefits
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is launching a new strategy to promote the use of green infrastructure by cities and towns to reduce stormwater runoff that pollutes the nation’s streams, creeks, rivers, lakes and coastal waters. Green infrastructure decreases pollution to local waterways by treating rain where it falls and keeping polluted stormwater from entering sewer systems. In addition to protecting Americans’ health by decreasing water pollution, green infrastructure provides many community benefits including increased economic activity and neighborhood revitalization, job creation, energy savings and increased recreational and green space.

Large volumes of polluted stormwater degrade the nation’s rivers, lakes and aquatic habitats and contribute to downstream flooding. Green infrastructure captures and filters pollutants by passing stormwater through soils and retaining it on site. Effective green infrastructure tools and techniques include green roofs, permeable materials, alternative designs for streets and buildings, trees, rain gardens and rain harvesting systems.

As part of the strategy, EPA will work with partners including local governments, watershed groups, tribes and others in ten cities that have utilized green infrastructure and have plans for additional projects. EPA will encourage and support expanded use of green infrastructure in these cities and highlight them as models for other municipalities around the country. The ten cities are: Austin, TX; Boston, MA; Cleveland, OH; Denver, CO; Jacksonville, FL.; Kansas City, MO.; Los Angeles, CA; Puyallup, WA; Syracuse, N.Y.; and Washington, D.C. and neighboring Anacostia Watershed communities.

EPA will continue to work with other federal agencies, state and local governments, tribes, municipalities, and the private sector to identify opportunities for using green infrastructure and provide assistance to communities implementing green approaches to control stormwater. EPA will also provide additional tools to help states and communities leverage green infrastructure opportunities within other innovative environmental projects.

For more information on EPA’s green infrastructure agenda: http://epa.gov/greeninfrastructure

3) EPA Celebrates American Wetlands Month: Learn! Explore! Take Action!
May marks the 21st anniversary of American Wetlands Month (AWM), a time when EPA and its wetland partners across the country celebrate the vital importance of wetlands to our nation's ecological, economic, and social health. EPA and a host of other public and private partners are planning and/or participating in a number of events including:

  • A national webcast, "Wetlands-At-Risk Protection Tool (WARPT)," on May 4 that will outline a process for local governments to quantify the extent of at-risk wetlands, document the benefits they provide at various scales, and use the results to develop a wetland protection plan (http://www.cwp.org/our-work/training/webcasts.html).
  • National Wetlands Awards Ceremony on Capitol Hill on May 4. The Environmental Law Institute, EPA, and other federal partners will honor a diverse group of individuals for their extraordinary commitment to conserving wetlands. (http://www.nationalwetlandsawards.org).
  • "Wetland Clean Up Day" on May 7 at Huntley Meadows in Alexandria, VA, sponsored by Ducks Unlimited (park includes 1,425 acres of wetlands, forests, and meadows)
  • EPA hosted Webinar "Promoting Wetland Conservation and Restoration to Private Landowners" on May 16 featuring an overview of outreach programming in outdoor recreational enterprise development and associated land and water conservation practices to private landowners, resource agencies, and state and local elected officials in the U.S. (https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/447218610).

EPA regional activities planned for the month of May include educational displays, discussions, presentations, special feature articles, wetland walks and celebrations, and an array of other outreach and communication events.

Information on national, regional, and local activities planned for May will be updated and posted throughout the month on EPA’s American Wetlands Month website: http://www.epa.gov/owow/wetlands/awm/.

EPA has also created an American Wetlands Month Widget which can easily be shared and embedded on other Web site(s), hot linking to EPA’s American Wetlands Month web page (http://tinyurl.com/3935qyh) and EPA will produce a number of fun and informative American Wetlands Month tweets.

Contact Kathleen Kutschenreuter (202) 566-1383 for more information.

4) EPA Announces Release of Re-Energizing the Capacity Development Program Report
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has made available a report titled: Re-Energizing the Capacity Development Program: Findings and Best Practices from the Capacity Development Re-Energizing Workgroup. This report is the product of the workgroup’s goals to better understand EPA's drinking water program’s existing implementation efforts, evaluate roadblocks to developing capacity and identify best practices to facilitate state program implementation. In 2010, EPA partnered with eight states and the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators to form the workgroup to assess the Capacity Development program’s progress and bring renewed attention to it. The program was established under the 1996 Amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act to provide a framework for EPA, states and systems to work together to ensure that drinking water systems attain short and long term capacity.

Public drinking water systems regulated by EPA, and delegated states and tribes, provide drinking water to about 90 percent of Americans. Providing safe drinking water is a partnership that involves EPA, the states, tribes, water systems and their operators.

The report provides case studies that may be useful for states, utilities and regions in their capacity development drinking water programs.

Electronic versions of the document may be found on the EPA website at http://water.epa.gov/type/drink/pws/smallsystems/state_guidance.cfm


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