science environment

Obama Administration Finalizes Clean Water Rule

By Courtney Flatt (OPB)
May 27, 2015 8:45 p.m.
Wildlife refuges in the Klamath Basin often feature a mixture of commercial agriculture and what remains of the historic wetlands.

Wildlife refuges in the Klamath Basin often feature a mixture of commercial agriculture and what remains of the historic wetlands.

The Obama Administration Wednesday announced a new clean water rule. The Environmental Protection Agency says it will help limit pollution in streams and wetlands.

The rule is meant to clarify uncertainty about who can regulate these smaller waterways and water bodies.

Environmentalists say the new rule will keep drinking water clean. Lauren Goldberg is the staff attorney with Columbia Riverkeeper. She says this new rule will provide critical protection for clean drinking water and fish habitat.

"This decision is a really important step in restoring protections that were in place for a number of decades that helped to keep water sources in the Northwest — and throughout the country — clean for consumers," Goldberg said.

Property rights and agriculture groups say the rule is too vague and burdensome. They say it could create unnecessary permits and lead to lawsuits.

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"Farmers are very concerned that they may need to get federal permits for simple things like ordinary field work, or fence construction, or seeding," said Evan Sheffels, associate director of government relations with the Washington Farm Bureau.

One half of people in Oregon and one third of people in Washington get drinking water from sources that rely on these types of small streams and water bodies.

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