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Reader's view: Clean Water Rule won’t give EPA all the power

As the 1972 Clean Water Act approaches its 43rd birthday Oct. 18, I must correct misstatements in the Oct. 2 letter, “We don’t need the EPA regulating our water.”

For 40-plus years, the Clean Water Act has protected our lakes, streams and wetlands — large and small, upstream and downstream. The nation’s waters are better for it.

The scope of the Clean Water Act never has been limited to so-called “federal waters,” waters that flow year round or waters that “float a boat.” In fact, the Clean Water Act is founded on the basic principle of federal-state partnerships, whereby federal agencies set basic, uniform water-quality standards to provide a minimum level playing field for all states. The states are encouraged to assume responsibility to execute at least these minimum protections for state waters.

The alternative is the failed state-by-state approach that leaves states free to engage in a water-quality “race to the bottom” that ultimately would lead to the severe pollution that triggered the Clean Water Act originally.

The EPA has neither the interest nor the capability to take “complete control over every waterway in the U.S.,” and it certainly doesn’t “pretend it is the only level of government that cares about clean water,” as the letter stated. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The EPA led the Clean Water rulemaking process because the Supreme Court and regulated community called for a revised rule to clarify which waters are and aren’t waters of the U.S. The EPA and Corps conducted an open and thorough rulemaking process, actively engaging state, tribal and local governments, and issued a final rule that carefully tracks the Supreme Court’s decisions and the science.

The Clean Water Rule doesn’t expand jurisdiction. It covers fewer water bodies than historically covered by the Clean Water Act and is essentially co-extensive with Minnesota’s water laws.

Gary Botzek

St. Paul

The writer is executive director of the Minnesota Conservation Federation.