Senate Introduces Clean Water Restoration Act

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) and 23 co-sponsors, including Environment and Public Works Committee leaders Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.), introduced the Clean Water Restoration Act to restore Clean Water Act safeguards to America’s wetlands, lakes, and streams, according to an April 2 press release.

A statement from the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) said that the act would restore protections Congress intended in the Clean Water Act.

"Restoring Clean Water Act protections is a vital first step in safeguarding America’s drinking water supplies, reducing flood damage, and maintaining and restoring fish and wildlife habitat. This is more urgent than ever because global warming will continue to bring more intense storms, droughts, and habitat loss. Healthy wetlands, rivers, and streams are essential to help people and wildlife survive the impacts of global warming," said Larry Schweiger, NWF president and chief executive officer.

Two split decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court have created ambiguity over the scope of the law. As a result of these decisions and subsequent agency guidance, at least 20 million acres of the nation’s wetlands are currently losing Clean Water Act protections, and many more are at risk, the NWF release said. Additionally, some 60 percent of stream miles in the United States that do not flow year-round are at risk of losing protection. Meanwhile, Clean Water Act enforcement is being crippled by the confusion and added workload triggered by these decisions and related guidance.