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TCWN Applauds New Clean Water Rule to Restore Protections to Small Streams and Many Wetlands

TCWN Applauds New Clean Water Rule to Restore Protections to Small Streams and Many Wetlands

Knoxville, Tennessee – Under a proposed rule now open for public comment, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) aim to restore historic Clean Water Act protections to hundreds of thousands of miles of streams and millions of acres of wetlands. When this policy is finalized, streams and wetlands that directly influence the water quality of our nation’s rivers, lakes and bays will once again be protected from pollution and destruction.

“This proposed rule will help to ensure the small creeks and streams that start in the Great Smoky Mountains and the Cumberland Mountains will received as much protection as the Tennessee, Cumberland and Mississippi rivers,” said Renee Hoyos, Tennessee Clean Water Network executive director.  “The wetland protection is important in Tennessee as well.  A study by the Association of State Wetland Managers shows that the state has lost nearly 60 percent of its wetlands with only 787,000 acres remaining of these valuable, environmentally sensitive areas.”

“The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) has already identified about 6,700 miles of Tennessee streams as polluted by too much E. coli, and it has only evaluated about half of the stream miles statewide. The Clean Water Act is an essential tool in TCWN’s efforts to clean up these polluted streams and this resolution on the definitions in the Act will help us to better focus our activities on preventing and stopping water pollution,” Hoyos added.

For the past decade, there has been confusion over which streams and wetlands are covered by the Clean Water Act because of polluter friendly court decisions and subsequent Bush administration policies.  This confusion has put the drinking water of over 117 million people at risk. One in three Americans relies on public drinking water supplies that are fed by headwater or seasonally flowing streams.

The proposed rule clarifies protections for about two million miles of streams and 20 million acres of wetlands and other waters based on the copious science showing these types of waters have a significant physical, chemical, or biological connection to traditionally navigable or interstate waters. The proposed rule preserves the existing Clean Water Act exemptions for farming, forestry, mining and certain other land use activities. When finalized, this “waters of the United States” rule will bolster the Clean Water Act’s legal and scientific foundation, provide greater long-term certainty for landowners, and protect the streams, wetlands and other waters that feed our Nation’s rivers, lakes and bays. 

“This proposed rule is long overdue and will benefit millions of people in Tennessee and all across the country” said Hoyos.  “The rule is a critical step toward protecting streams and wetlands that feed our drinking water supplies, filter pollutants and safeguard communities from flooding.”

TCWN urges the Administration to finalize this strong rule to restore protections to all water, including seasonal wetlands and other waters. Every water body is important and a strong rule will improve the health of our nation’s rivers, lakes, and bays, which depend on the smaller water bodies that feed into them,” Hoyos added.

For more information on the proposed EPA rule, visit the EPA website at http://www2.epa.gov/laws-regulations.  Information on TCWN’s programs and activities can be found at www.tcwn.org.



About TCWN:

Tennessee Clean Water Network is a nonprofit organization created to advocate for strong policies and programs that result in more effective protection and restoration of Tennessee’s waters and to educate organizations, decision-makers and the public about important water resource issues.


Tennessee Clean Water Network

625 Market St.

Knoxville, TN 37902


Mailing Address:

PO BOX 1521

Knoxville, TN 37902


Office: 865.522.7007

Fax: 865.525.4988