EPA’s “Connectivity Report”

NCASI recently submitted technical comments to the US Environmental Protection Agency on the agency’s draft report Connectivity of Streams and Wetlands to Downstream Waters: A Review and Synthesis of the Scientific Evidence (EPA/600/R-11/098B; available at http://cfpub.epa.gov/ncea/cfm/recordisplay.cfm?deid=238345).

When finalized, the report will be used to inform a rulemaking process that is already underway to clarify the extent of federal jurisdiction over wetlands and non-navigable waters under the Clean Water Act in light of the Supreme Court’s 2006 decision in a case known as Rapanos. An important aspect of the Rapanos decision is that federal jurisdiction over a wetland or non-navigable water depends on the existence of a “significant” ecological connection with traditional navigable waters.

EPA’s draft Connectivity Report argues that all stream tributaries and wetlands (no matter how small or ephemeral) are connected in some form or fashion to downstream navigable waters by physical, chemical, and/or biological means. Conspicuously missing from the report is discussion of methods that could be used to measure the ecological significance of connections of traditional navigable waters with small streams and wetlands.


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