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Mixed reactions greet new clean water rule

The old Velsicol chemical plant site from across the Pine River.
Mark Brush
Michigan Radio

The Obama administration has finalized new regulations meant to clarify which bodies of water are protected under the Clean Water Act.

The new rule was drafted by the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.   It says the Clean Water Act protects navigable waterways and their tributaries that show physical features of flowing water. That can include a bed, bank and ordinary high water mark.

“This is a generational rule and completes another chapter in history of the Clean Water Act,” Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the Army Corps, said in a press release. “This rule responds to the public's demand for greater clarity, consistency, and predictability when making jurisdictional determinations. The result will be better public service nationwide.”

According to the EPA, 117 million Americans get their drinking water from streams that lacked clear protection before today.

Previous Supreme Court decisions made it unclear what bodies were protected under the Clean Water Act. One ruling in 2006 involved two cases out of Michigan.

The regulations have received support from organizations such as the National Wildlife Federation and The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition.

“At a time when federal Great Lakes restoration investments are delivering results for our environment and economy across the region, the clean water protection rule will help ensure that those gains are protected and not undermined,” Todd Ambs, campaign director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition  said in a press release.

John Kran is with the Michigan Farm Bureau. He says many farmers are concerned about the new rules.

“Our farmers sent several thousand comments about their concerns to the EPA,” Kran said. “Specifically, with the overreach of the federal government.”

Kran said the organization is concerned the regulations are too broad.  

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