Reform of the Clean Water Act

When most people think of wetlands they think of swamps, marshes, and bogs, places where ducks, geese and waterfowl swim and build their nests.

That’s what President Bush was thinking about back in 1988 when he promised that under his Administration there would be “no net loss of wetlands.”   Environmentalists used that innocent line like a club, and they beat him with it his entire four years in office.   Mr. Bush thought that he was talking about wet lands, but “wetlands” is a term, manufactured by bureaucrats at no less that five governmental agencies, that now includes, yes, that pothole in your back yard.

The current definition of a wetland is this:  If you can dig down 12 inches and find moisture — not water — from 5% to 7% of the growing season in your area then you’ve got yourself a wetland.   Five percent of the growing seasons usually translates to about seven days.  Just think about that for a minute.   If that pothole in your driveway or that little low spot in your back yard  is moist (it doesn’t have to have water in it) seven days out of our 365 day year, technically, under current law, it’s a wetland; and the government can come in and prevent you from doing anything more to your property.  Green bureaucrats who have careered-in to these five agencies have become so aggressive that they have actually come in and ordered some property owners to tear down their existing homes – – never mind the fact that these people had the proper building permits when their homes were constructed.

These onerous regulations grew out of Section 404 of The Clean Water Act.  Now the Clean Water Act doesn’t say anything about wetlands.  It was designed to regulate only dumping into, and pollution of, the nation’s navigable waters, rivers, harbors, and canals.  But, in a 1975 court decision, Natural Resources Defense Council v. Callaway, a  Washington, D.C. district judge ruled that federal jurisdiction applied beyond navigable waters to any wetlands that might remotely feed into such rivers and harbors, and the bureaucrats simply took over from there.

That is why H.R. 961, the Clean Water Act Amendments of 1995, which is before the House of Representatives right now, is so important. The abuse that this act has permitted, both to private property owners as well as state and local governments, are too numerous to mention.  H.R. 961 is a most reasonable bill that, among other things, will define a wetland so that in the future you will be able to recognize one when you see it.

The nation’s leading environmental organizations continue to strongly oppose this legislation. They have portrayed it as an attempt to undo 20 years of progress in improving the nation’s waters.  That is why these groups are now referred to as “radical.”  They condemn themselves by opposing this most reasonable measure.

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