July 25, 2007

Reed, Whitehouse Seek to Protect Wetlands in Rhode Island and Nationwide

WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to protect Rhode Island’s wetlands and rivers and strengthen our nation’s environmental laws, U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) today joined with Russ Feingold (D-WI) and several Senate colleagues in introducing the Clean Water Restoration Act. This bill will help protect wetlands and other aquatic ecosystems, which play an important role in absorbing flood-waters, preventing pollution from reaching our rivers and streams, and providing crucial habitat for birds, fish, shellfish and other wildlife.

Last summer, in a controversial 4-1-4 split decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the landmark Clean Water Act of 1972 only protects “navigable” waters, not watersheds feeding navigable waters. This ruling would shrink the pool of water and wetland areas under federal protection and lead to increased litigation. It would also shift more of the cost and burden of safeguarding wetlands to state and local governments.

The Clean Water Restoration Act puts Congress clearly on record saying that the intent of the law is to protect all of the nation’s waters, including wetlands, streams, tributaries, rivers, ponds, and lakes.

“Our communities depend on safe, clean water and for over three decades the Clean Water Act has safeguarded them. This legislation reaffirms and upholds the intent of the Clean Water Act: to establish and maintain the biological and physical integrity of our nation’s waters,” said Reed, a key member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior who cosponsored similar legislation in the last Congress. “Rhode Island has always been a leader in conserving our natural resources. This bill will extend protections to ensure the health of more ecosystems across the nation.”

“The waters of the Ocean State are among our greatest treasures, and the Clean Water Act has defended them from polluters for more than three decades,” said Whitehouse, a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee. “This legislation will help ensure Rhode Island’s precious marine environment, and waters around the country, remain healthy for generations into the future.”

The Clean Water Restoration Act will:

• Make it clear that the full range of wetlands, streams, lakes, and other waters are protected by the Clean Water Act;

• Delete the term “navigable” from the Clean Water Act to clarify that Congress’s primary intent in 1972 is not to limit clean water protection to navigable waters, but to protect all of the nation’s waters from pollution; and

• Affirm the Constitutional authority of Congress to regulate the nation’s waters and wetlands so that our waterways will be protected by federal law.


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Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921