For more than thirty years, the Clean Water Act has protected the nation’s lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands from unregulated pollution, filling and destruction. However, since a Supreme Court ruling in 2001, polluters have argued that the law no longer applies to many small bodies of water around the country. In 2003, the Bush administration issued a directive requiring EPA staff to get permission from headquarters before protecting “isolated” water bodies like vernal pools, prairie potholes, playa lakes and bogs. In reality, these waters provide critical wildlife habitat, store flood water and protect drinking water supplies.
During House consideration of H.R. 5386, the Interior-Environment Appropriations bill, Representatives James Oberstar (D-MN), Jim Leach (R-IA) and John Dingell (D-MI) introduced an amendment that would force the EPA to rescind its directive and reaffirm a broad application of Clean Water Act protections. On May 18, 2006, House Amendment 854 was approved by a 222-198 vote (House roll call vote 169). YES is the pro-environment vote.