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Local View: New clean water rule needs time to work

On May 27, the Environmental Protection Agency finalized a new rule that will better protect drinking water supplies in Duluth, Northeastern Minnesota and all across the state.

Gary Botzek

On May 27, the Environmental Protection Agency finalized a new rule that will better protect drinking water supplies in Duluth, Northeastern Minnesota and all across the state.

Why is clean water so Important?

Clean water is vital to our health, communities and the economy. We need clean water upstream to have healthy communities downstream. The health of rivers, lakes, bays and coastal waters depends on the streams and wetlands where they begin. Streams and wetlands provide many benefits to communities by trapping floodwaters, recharging groundwater supplies, filtering pollution, and providing habitat for fish and wildlife.

As you already know, the drinking water for the Duluth area primarily comes from Lake Superior via the city’s water treatment plant and from private wells in rural areas. The water quality of Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world, is dependent on the water quality of the waters flowing into it via rivers and streams.

About 117 million Americans - one in three - get their drinking water from streams and were vulnerable to pollution before the Clean Water Rule. The EPA estimates that the new rule will protect 51 percent of Minnesota streams, rivers and wetlands and affect the drinking water quality for 978,900 citizens of our great state.

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Our way of life depends on clean rivers, streams, lakes and wetlands. We need clean water to provide habitat as well as places to fish, paddle, surf and swim.

Our economy depends on clean water. Manufacturing, farming, tourism and energy production all are dependent on clean water. The importance of clean water for Minnesota tourism cannot be overstated.

This new EPA rule will restore Clean Water Act protections to streams and wetlands that have been in legal limbo - and at an increased risk of pollution and destruction - for more than a decade. This new rule will protect about 60 percent of the nation’s streams and millions of acres of wetlands.

These small streams, creeks and wetlands also provide habitat to countless wildlife, from great blue herons to river otters to lake trout and river trout.

The EPA did its best to appease the many concerns raised by farmers, ranchers and forestry interests in its draft ruling. This final rule could not be more explicit about which waters are protected and which are not, and it clearly restates the Clean Water Act’s exemptions for normal farming, ranching and forestry practices.

Clean water is the backbone of our way of life here in Minnesota. We drink it every day, and we fish and recreate in it as often as we can. We must do everything we can to protect our lakes, wetlands, streams and rivers.

This rule, like any other rule or law, can always be changed or rejected by an act of Congress. I urge Rep. Rick Nolan and Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar to give this new rule a chance to settle so we can all see through the water a little more clearly. I believe we will like what we see.

Gary Botzek of Roseville, Minn., is executive director of the Minnesota Conservation Federation ( mncf.org ).

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