Myth 1: The Clean Water Restoration Act (Restoration Act) goes too far - even protecting birdbaths, mud puddles and ditches.
Reality: The Restoration Act does not add any new protections to waters and wetlands beyond those protected under the Clean Water Act prior to 2001.
The Clean Water Act was never meant to protect birdbaths and mud puddles and the Restoration Act will not result in any such thing. The bill simply reaffirms the historic scope of the Clean Water Act as it has been understood by the Congress, the courts and the public since it was passed in 1972.
Man-made waters, like ditches, created from uplands typically have not been protected by the Clean Water Act and would not be protected under the Restoration Act either.
However, any "man-made" or altered ditches, canals, and other tributaries governed by the Clean Water Act before the 2001 Supreme Court decision will continue to be addressed by the Clean Water Act. These tributaries often carry pollutants and floodwaters to downstream waters such as rivers, lakes and streams.
Myth 2: The Restoration Act will interfere with existing agricultural activities.
Reality: If agricultural activities were not regulated under the Clean Water Act before the 2001 Court case they will not be regulated upon passage of the Restoration Act.
The Restoration Act specifically preserves all existing exemptions in the Clean Water Act including those for
Myth 3: The Restoration Act will take away the exemption for prior converted cropland.
Reality: The Restoration Act does not take away this exemption which is currently found in the U.S. Army Corps and EPA rules defining "waters of the U.S."
To the extent that prior converted cropland has been exempt from the Clean Water Act in the past, it will remain exempt under the Restoration Act.
Myth 4: Tile drainage and stream stabilization projects will now require permits that will delay farm work.
Reality: The Restoration Act will not regulate any activities not previously regulated by the Clean Water Act. Projects that did not need a permit before 2001 will not need one now due to the Restoration Act.
The laying of tile in upland areas will not be changed by the Restoration Act. Where permits are required, such as new ditching and draining of previously unfarmed wetlands or adding riprap in streambeds, the Restoration Act will speed up permitting by reducing the confusion over Clean Water Act jurisdiction. Where not exempt, many projects are covered under existing nationwide general permits which are usually issued within 1-2 months.
Myth 5: The waters and wetlands in question are isolated. Concern about pollution of downstream waters is a red herring.
Reality: From a scientific standpoint there are few, if any, isolated waters or wetlands.
The so-called isolated waters and wetlands targeted for exclusion from Clean Water Act protection are virtually all linked - either through underground flows, groundwater connections, sheet flow, or other connections - to other waters.
Myth 6: The wetlands and streams involved play an insignificant role in the environment.
Reality: A wide range of waters and wetlands are jeopardized by the current policy.
Some of the waters at risk don't remain wet all year including streams that are primarily fed by rainfall or snowmelt. These waters are some of the most critical for absorbing floodwaters, filtering pollution, providing critical wildlife habitat, and providing base flow and recharge in both arid and non-arid regions.
Pollution discharges into small streams and wetlands could be carried downstream threatening larger waters during the time water is flowing. In fact, the EPA recently stated that some 90% of surface water protection areas critical for providing safe drinking water for some 110 million Americans contain start reaches (where streams begin), intermittent or ephemeral streams (waters that do not flow all year round). The Clean Water Act was intended to protect these waters from the beginning.
Myth 7: According to an agricultural lobbyist, the Restoration Act will have EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers "looking for Indian arrowheads and exotic plants in your cornfield."
Reality: The Restoration Act only relates to the question of which waters are subject to the Clean
The Clean Water Act deals with quality of these waters. Neither the Clean Water Act nor the Restoration Act is related to archeological sites or endangered species.
Myth 8: The intent of the original Clean Water Act was to protect only "navigable" waters, so the Restoration Act is an expansion of Clean Water Act jurisdiction.
Reality: Congress made clear its intent to broadly protect "waters of the United States," not just the 2% of waters nationally that are truly navigable. The original Clean Water Act defined navigable as "waters of the U.S."