Aerial photo of an expansive view of the Wisconsin River, with islands and sand bars.
Wisconsin River The lower portion of the Wisconsin River flows freely for more than 90 miles from the dam at Prairie du Sac downstream to its mouth at the Mississippi River. © Steve S. Meyer

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The Nature Conservancy Calls for Renewed Protections for U.S. Waterways

Urges administration to proceed to a new, durable definition of “Waters of the United States”

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) today called on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to restore key protections for America’s streams, lakes, rivers and wetlands as covered under the Clean Water Act.

The “Waters of the United States” rule defines the scope and kinds of waterways protected under the Clean Water Act against harmful uses like pollution discharge. Last June, the Biden administration announced it would initiate a new rulemaking process to overwrite the previous administration’s rule.

In comments submitted to the agencies, TNC supported their proposal to return to the regulatory conditions that existed prior to 2015 while the agencies pursue a durable and science-based definition of Clean Water Act jurisdiction.

In its comments, TNC also recommended ways the agencies can strengthen their proposal, such as better assessing the economic benefits of clean water, further incorporating consideration of climate change and defining additional terms either through guidance or in the subsequent rulemaking.

The proposed rule, which would return us to the implementation of the Clean Water Act that existed prior to 2015, is a step in the right direction.

TNC’s senior water policy advisor

The following is a statement by Jimmy Hague, TNC’s senior water policy advisor:

“Waterways are some of the most fundamental and essential links between communities across the country. These are shared, interconnected resources that supply our drinking water, help grow our food, transport our goods, provide our energy and support our communities and economy. The proposed rule, which would return us to the implementation of the Clean Water Act that existed prior to 2015, is a step in the right direction. It will increase protection not just for our waterways themselves but for the broad array of ecosystem services they provide.

“Managing our waterways effectively, holistically and through the best-available science is the only way for us to ensure they and the communities and economies they support remain healthy. The protection of our nation’s water resources must be anchored in a scientifically sound and durable definition of ‘Waters of the United States.’ We look forward to working with the administration to make that a reality.”

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 76 countries and territories: 37 by direct conservation impact and 39 through partners, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.