|Shut up - the headwaters are in great shape!|
As such, one whole blogger has taken to the world of social media to decry TU's "special interest" histrionics (too strong a word?) as a scam for fundraising, and a red herring for blanket, purposeless conservation activities. So let's back up.
For a description of this Congressional action from its own sponsor, Congressman Rehberg, read it from his own press secretary. In short, Rehberg is proud that his amendment will eliminate from protection all non-navigable waters and wetlands (from the federal definition of "navigable" , further defined by Kaiser Aetna v United States). Those areas currently are protected on a "case-by-case" basis - which provides some protection - though unpredictable. Determining exactly how many headwater streams that are of importance to trout and are also truly, legally non-navigable is basically a fool's errand, but surely it's thousands or tens of thousands of headwater reaches. Their rurality is meaningless - shopping malls aren't the only threat to trout streams. Once off the map for federal jurisdiction, they are often off the map for state jurisdiction. That means they can be filled for timber access. Piped for driveways. Dammed up for ponds. From a regulatory perspective, those natural resources just "go away."
TU's folks, not surprisingly, applied a very liberal legal (not politically liberal, although the two intersect here) definition in framing their press releases. That's what a special interest group does. Go ahead and claim that "liberty," "jobs," "property rights," "economic prosperity" or "the Constitution" are not being used - at this moment - as political tools to literally destroy the environment that we all depend on for food, water, and life. One blogger will claim that, I'm sure. And it'll be cute - as it always is.
|I have known some truly incompetent regulatory staff |
over the last 15 years, but none of them would call this
a regulated stream!
All of that was ignored in the refraining anti-TU kabuki that was typical and predictable. One sentiment struck me the oddest.
"Who's to say when the water is clean?"
|We can argue about "clean water," but without effective,|
well-written regulations, it simply will not happen.
"The objective of this Act is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation's waters." You see? That quickly and easily, we can start to see how the Act's writers and legislative sponsors framed "clean" - as having "chemical, physical, and biological integrity."
Immediately below, the Act adds that (paraphrased)
1) discharge of pollutants into navigable waters should be stopped by 1985.
2) water quality good enough to support shellfish, fish, and wildlife should be near-universal by 1983.
3) water quality good enough to swim, surf, and paddle in should be near-universal by 1983.
4) dangerous toxic discharges into waters should be halted
Again - detailed "framing" but no true definition. I guess if someone was really concerned about this TU scam to declare all but the purest waters "dirty," and thus wanted to know if any real definition for "clean" and "dirty" water really exists (if it's a scam, then none should exist), well, then they could do a basic Google search and come up with the
Before we get started here, the link above makes a point to mention that drinking waters are technically and legally defined elsewhere (here, actually). Back to work. 40 CFR 130.3 requires that the EPA and each individual state agree on Water Quality Standards. If only there was one single place to find the WQS for each state. Oh wait, here it is (first link on a Google search)! For example, that site linked right to my state's (Maryland's) water quality standards - a long legal document, incorporated into state law, that defines maximum limits on a variety of inorganic and organic pollutants for everything from aquatic life to "frequent full body contact recreation in marine water." Get the field data. Pick your sensitive variable (trout, oysters, people), and compare it to the standard. Your water either passes or fails the standard, and is thus "clean" or "other than clean." There are other variables that come into play, like "how many days failed per season," but that's in a whole different weed patch than the into which I've already dragged you.
|Water quality standards from an irrigation manual -|
this is how you define "clean water" for rice growing
Now, that's not nearly the end to the easily-understood definition of "clean water." If one is interested in what, for example, defines clean water that can "perpetuate and restore brook trout throughout their historic range" (one of the primary goals of the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture) there are 150 years of scientific studies on the topic. I prefer starting with basic tools like the USFWS HSI for Brook Trout - it's a fairly simple model that takes into account many habitat factors, most of which pertain directly or indirectly to water quality. Another frequently cited work is the 25-year old USFS article tying watershed condition to brook trout abundance. A close and steady read shows the impact (or lack thereof, in some cases) of a dozen different physical and chemical parameters on brook trout. There are some interesting nuances in there - now common knowledge - that were apparently quite controversial at the time. Then there's 1995 RAMAS model, used to identify the impact of man-made watershed and water quality changes to actual brook trout population dynamics (not just abundance of individuals). And there are thousands more. Pick another species of wildlife, and the data is there. Polluted water can impact them in some way, to some extent. Maybe, in some cases, in such a minor way as to render water pollution a non-issue for the species.
|Looks to me like even meager water quality|
goals might not ever be met in much of
the historic range of EBT.
And if Trout Unlimited complained, "Well, it could still be cleaner!" after a trout stream met "brook trout standards," then I'd be the first to point them out for wasting funds, generating false alarm, and veering away from their organization's mission. Honestly, is "nothing more important" than good brook trout water, all over the American landscape? C'mon TU writers, you are really stretching it there. But I understand the context and the sentiment.
For the most part, Hunt and Moyer make plenty of sense. Congress refused to allow EPA to redefine the terms of the Clean Water Act in 2007, 2009, and again in 2011. Now Congress is pecking away at EPA's remaining authority over wetlands and streams. NAHB, COC, and dozens of other anti-regulatory organizations are involved in the fight. Why wouldn't anyone want Trout Unlimited to be there? Why should TU's claims be any less ferocious and over-the-top than the anti-conservationists?
|Many have tried, and failed, to explain to me|
how this is good for financially sustainable
economic growth through the 21st Century.
Is a statement like, "Nothing is more important than clean water" a red herring? As I alluded to in my rant about Pebble Mine, I don't think so, but honestly, it forces the topic to immediately become divisive, which is helpful to no one (please take note, TU writers). Such language, I'd argue, doesn't really help us look 100, 200, 300 years into the future and try to assess "what's most important."
What's important about clean water, then? (and back to my Pebble Mine rant) We, as a society, have been destroying our water supply with reckless abandon for 400 years. Am I sorry that in our lifetime, it must stop? No. I'm proud. Will I enjoy paying my share (and my prior generations' share) to clean up 400 years of trashed waterways? No. It's going to be expensive. Does it suck that my generation is also the one paying for other assorted industrial, fiscal, and governmental follies of the prior 60 years? Oh yes. It hurts every payday. And I'm thankful to have a payday at all (or two or three...but that's another story).
But in preparing for our nation's long term future, ignoring that our water, air, and soil are our inevitable and essential fuel for food, industry, and basic human life is the thought process of a simpleton. To state such arguments in the context of "the economy's bad, so we can't clean up the water" - when in fact, these same groups lobbied to avoid paying these cleanup bills when the economy was at its 300+ year peak - is openly disingenuous.
|Developers in this area can expect maximum profits|
on lot sales!
But making statements like, "Clean Water is a Fundraising Scam" will get us nothing but a sad note in history - the generation who did nothing to protect our air, water, and soil for future generations (and their industries), in exchange for generating a few jobs in a few industries in a few places for a few years, while the economy largely kept sputtering. That's some American legacy.
|When I retire (God willing), it will have been over 100 years since the|
creation of the US Soil Erosion Service, and yet we're still losing soil by the ton.
Perhaps my generation, or the one coming up behind me, will see the end of it.