WOTUS: Acronym for Waters of the United States, also known as the Clean Water Act
There is a particular farm near one of my favorite trout fishing locations. It is a small cattle operation. I wouldn’t call it industrial scale. It is, however, intense enough that the feeding area is a mud hole after a rain, permanently barren of vegetation, and it seems to straddle an head of an intermittent stream. I have never seen flowing water there but I would have to traipse around on private property during a pouring rain to do so. I’ve often wondered about the water quality downstream. Any surface flow would move downstream toward the nearby river. It might be captured in a pond but I can’t see one on Google Earth photos. I know that water molecules go somewhere, and collectively, they carry with them whatever is dissolved in them. Imagine a raindrop with billions of water molecules falls on that feedlot. Some of those molecules will evaporate, some will run off on the surface, some of them will soak into the ground, eventually to end up in an aquafer, perhaps trapped for a million years. Some of them may travel through the underground karst system to my favorite spring and they will carry with them some of the dissolved chemicals from that cattle operation. I’m not accusing the farmer of pollution, I’m trying to create a mental picture. That concept is groundwater-surface water connectivity. It refers to the direction and magnitude of flow between water resources located above and below ground. A MO DNR hydrology report has shown that dyes injected near that farm have ended up in my favorite fishing waters. I thought it was interesting that the surface drainage was not exactly the same as the ground water drainage. Anyway, we shouldn’t care because if it causes a real pollution problem, the EPA will enforce the Clean Water Act. Wait …
Over the last few years there has been great controversy in defining waters of the United States and what needs to be protected. The EPA and COE (Army Corps) now have a proposal for a new definition. The EPA’s Science Advisory Board has issued a draft commentary on that proposed rule which is not flattering of the EPA/COE recommendation or of the process. I was going to cut and paste a summary of it for you, but I noticed the part that said that it was a draft and was not to be cited or “quoted”. Oops! The short of it is that the EPA and Corps are ignoring recognized hydrological science and that the proposed rule falls short of the goal of restoring the Nation’s waters. Specifically, the EPA and Corps ignore the connectivity of ground water to wetlands and adjacent major bodies of water (where you fish). Note to the Quote Police: Just because I use a few of the same words that the letter uses, doesn’t mean I cited or quoted anything. Does it?
You can read the draft letter for yourself here. Bob Randall