Why the Clean Water Rule Matters for the Rogue
What is the Clean Water Rule?
The Clean Water Rule was finalized in June 2015 under the Obama administration. This rule provides greater clarity about what types of waters are protected under the Clean Water Act. It would restore protections to small streams and wetlands that were put into question following two Supreme Court cases in 2001 and 2006.
Why does the Clean Water Rule Matter for the Rogue?
The Clean Water Rule restores some level of protections for wetlands and small streams that may only flow seasonally or infrequently. The science is clear that the health of small streams and wetlands affects larger streams, rivers, lakes, and other waters downstream.
The Clean Water Rule better protects:
- Small headwater streams that are sources of drinking water in the Rogue: Across the watershed, 154,320 people in Jackson, Josephine, and Curry counties rely on small headwater streams that may flow seasonally or infrequently as a source of their drinking water. This means that almost everyone who relies on a public drinking water system in our watershed relies on these smaller streams.
- Unique wetlands that filter pollutants and store floodwaters: Southern Oregon is home to vernal pool systems. These seasonal wetlands fill up with rainwater during the winter and spring, but may be dry during other times of the year. The Agate Desert vernal pools in Jackson County are the only vernal pools in Oregon. They support unique species, such as the vernal pool fairy shrimp. Vernal pools store floodwaters, filter out pollutants, and provide habitat for migrating birds.
The Clean Water Rule Under Threat
The Clean Water Rule has yet to be implemented due to legal challenges. On February 28, 2017, President Trump issued an executive order to direct the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to review the "Clean Water Rule." If the Clean Water Rule gets rolled back, small headwater streams, wetlands, and southern Oregon's unique vernal pools could lose protections under the Clean Water Act. At Rogue Riverkeeper, we're working with state and national organizations to stand up for the Clean Water Rule.
Here is the EPA link to the Clean Water Rule.