Like to Fish? Here’s Why You Should Care about the Clean Water Rule.
If you answered yes, you’re in good company. In fact, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that more than 33 million people went fishing in 2011, taking 455 million fishing trips and spending $41.8 billion in fishing-related expenses.
You can add my late grandfather to the list too, who grew up along the banks of Pine Creek in north central Pennsylvania in a small town that shared his last name. Pine Creek flows through the Pine Creek Gorge, also known as the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. On a recent trip home, my grandmother regaled us with tales of my grandfather’s adventures catching trout along his beloved Pine Creek.
Sixty-three percent of the waters that flow into Pine Creek are headwater streams and 32 percent of streams in the watershed flow only seasonally. These forested headwater streams provide habitat for the brook trout, the state fish of Pennsylvania and the only native trout in the state. More than a million people go fishing across Pennsylvania every year, supporting a strong recreational angling industry.
The small streams and wetlands that flow into Pine Creek aren’t just important for fish. In fact, more than 8 million people in Pennsylvania rely in part upon headwater streams and streams that only flow seasonally or after rain as a source of their drinking water.
Despite my love for my home state, I know that this story isn’t unique to Pennsylvania. Across the country, small streams and wetlands contribute to the drinking water supplies of 117 million Americans. They support fish and wildlife, capture and store floodwaters, and help to filter out pollutants. Most importantly, these small streams and rivers feel like ours. They are where we fish, wade, or boat. They are part of the stories we tell. They may even remind us of home.
Why should you care about the proposed Clean Water Rule?
Many of the small headwater streams, waters that flow only seasonally or after rain, and wetlands that flow into Pine Creek and countless rivers across the country are no longer guaranteed protections under the Clean Water Act. Although the Clean Water Act was historically interpreted comprehensively to protect these smaller waters, they were put into question following two Supreme Court cases in 2001 and 2006. The resulting Administrative guidance put protections for these waters even more into question as enforcement of polluters significantly declined [PDF].
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers have released a proposed Clean Water Rule in an effort to clarify what waters are – and are not – protected under the law. If you like to go fishing, enjoy drinking clean water, or love to boat in a healthy river – this proposed rule affects you.
What can you do to help restore protections to small streams and wetlands?
Moving forward on the proposed Clean Water Rule will be an uphill battle, with big polluters pushing to maintain the status quo of uncertainty and reduced protections. Efforts in Congress to block the proposed Clean Water Rule are ongoing. Think about your Pine Creek and support a strong rule that protects clean water for the health of our rivers and the communities that depend upon them.