The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will hold a series of public meetings in August to hear perspectives about a planned revision of waterways that fall under federal protection.
The EPA announced it would hold five virtual public hearings in August to hear what the public believes the federal government should consider when drafting a new definition of “waters of the United States.”
The WOTUS definition declares which waterways fall under the protection of the Clean Water Act and other federal laws.
The current WOTUS definition, the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, was finalized in 2020. The rule includes four narrowly defined categories of waterways: territorial seas and navigable waters; perennial and intermittent tributaries; certain lakes, ponds and impoundments; and wetlands adjacent to jurisdictional waters.
The rule left out protections for waterways that are dry for part of the year, known as ephemeral streams, and isolated wetlands.
The 2020 rule allowed Indiana lawmakers to draft a bill that ultimately removed state protections for half of Indiana’s remaining 800,000 acres of wetlands and weakened those protections that were allowed to remain.
The EPA said it would eventually undertake two rulemakings. The first would essentially repeal the 2020 rule and restore the WOTUS definitions that were in place for decades until 2015. The agency would then use public input to establish a definition of WOTUS that would protect human health and the environment while surviving legal challenges.
“We really believe that in order to develop a definition of waters of the United States that really protects our nation's waters, but is also clear and implementable for stakeholders all around the country, that we have to listen and learn from the lived experience of a range of stakeholders, including the agricultural community,” said Radhika Fox, principal deputy assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Water Quality in an interview.
The EPA will hold the virtual public meetings at the following times. Registration is required to listen or speak at the meetings.
• August 18, 2021 from 3-5 p.m. Eastern – Registration
• August 23, 2021 from 1-3 p.m. Eastern – Registration
• August 25, 2021 from 3-5 p.m. Eastern (for small entities) – Registration
• August 26, 2021 from 6-8 p.m. Eastern – Registration
• August 31, 2021 from 3-5 p.m. Eastern – Registration
The EPA will also soon accept public comments here in the following days.