EPA seeks public input on draft science report titled Connectivity of Streams and Wetlands to Downstream Waters

Below is the link to the EPA website providing the report and the review process–

http://cfpub.epa.gov/ncea/cfm/recordisplay.cfm?deid=238345

Here’s an excerpt from the site: “The Environmental Protection Agency – through the independent Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) – is soliciting public comment on a new draft science report titled: Connectivity of Streams and Wetlands to Downstream Waters. A public docket has been opened to receive comments and those comments received by November 6, 2013, will be provided to the SAB Panel for its consideration in advance of their December 16- 18, 2013 meeting. Comments received after November 6, 2013, will be marked late and cannot be guaranteed to be provided to the Panel in advance of their meeting.

“This draft science report presents a review and synthesis of relevant peer reviewed scientific literature that will inform an upcoming joint USEPA/ Army Corps of Engineers rulemaking to enhance protection of the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of our nation’s waters by clarifying Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction. Recent decisions of the Supreme Court have underscored the need for EPA and the public to better understand the connectivity or isolation of streams and wetlands relative to larger water bodies such as rivers, lakes, estuaries, and oceans, and to use that understanding to underpin regulatory actions and increase certainty among various CWA stakeholders. This report, when finalized, will provide the scientific basis needed to clarify CWA jurisdiction, including a description of the factors that influence connectivity and the mechanisms by which connected waters affect downstream waters.

“This draft science report represents the state-of-the-science on the connectivity and isolation of waters in the United States. It makes three main initial conclusions, summarized below, that are drawn from a broad range of peer reviewed scientific literature.
• Streams, regardless of their size or how frequently they flow, are connected to and have important effects on downstream waters. These streams supply most of the water in rivers, transport sediment and organic matter, provide habitat for many species, and take up or change nutrients that could otherwise impair downstream waters.
• Wetlands and open-waters in floodplains of streams and rivers and in riparian areas (transition areas between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems) are integrated with streams and rivers. They strongly influence downstream waters by affecting the flow of water, trapping and reducing nonpoint source pollution, and exchanging biological species.
• Finally, there is insufficient information to generalize about wetlands and open-waters located outside of riparian areas and floodplains and their connectivity to downstream waters.

“Through public comment and independent peer review by the SAB, the agency is seeking input concerning the literature summarized in the report and the strengths of its conclusions. As a result of that input and review by the SAB external review panel, the agency will consider revisions to these conclusions as it prepares its final report.

“In addition to the release of this report, EPA, with the Army Corps of Engineers, has sent a draft rule to clarify the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act to the Office of Management and Budget for interagency review. This draft rule takes into consideration the current state-of-the-art peer reviewed science reflected in the draft science report. Any final regulatory action related to the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act in a rulemaking will be based on the final version of this scientific assessment, which will reflect EPA’s consideration of all comments received from the public and the independent peer review.

“The proposed rule is limited to clarifying current uncertainty concerning the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act that has arisen as an outgrowth of recent Supreme Court decisions; it does not propose changes to existing regulatory exemptions and exclusions, including those that apply to the agricultural sector that ensure the continuing production of food, fiber and fuel to the benefit of all Americans. Specifically, EPA and the Army Corps are interested in enhancing the ability of the CWA and USDA’s conservation programs to work in tandem to protect water quality and improve the environment by encouraging expanded participation in conservation programs by farmers and ranchers. It will do so by providing greater clarity on which waters are not subject to CWA jurisdiction and greater certainty on which activities do not require CWA permits. “

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