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Waters of the United States

Please note: The Obama administration’s 2015 “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule—which defines federal environmental permitting jurisdiction involving wetlands—is in effect in 23 states and some counties in New Mexico (click here for a map). 26 states (plus some counties in New Mexico) are currently operating under the pre-2015 regulations and guidance. Project proponents in areas where the 2015 rule is in effect may have questions about what waters are jurisdictional moving forward. AGC of America published an in-depth look on the 2015 WOTUS rule when it was finalized. (This is a developing issue and several cases challenging the merits of the 2015 rule are working their way through the district courts. Check back for more details.) In 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a proposal to repeal the 2015 rule and issued a supplement to that proposal in 2018. On December 11, 2018, the agencies then proposed a replacement rule. Updates on the 2015 WOTUS rule, the pre-2015 regulations and guidance, and the status on the repeal-replace effort can be found on EPA’s website for the:

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At one time, wetlands were thought of as wastelands. However today, there is a much greater understanding of the roles wetlands play in our ecosystems. Wetlands help maintain water quality by slowly filtering excess nutrients, sediments, and pollutants before water seeps into the nation's rivers, streams and underground aquifers. They offer a breeding ground and/or habitat for fish, wildlife, and plants. The EPA estimates that more than one-third of the United States' threatened and endangered species live only in wetlands and nearly half use wetlands at some point in their lives.

The CICA Wetlands section contains useful features that will help you understand the regulations and find out how to comply. Also, there are links to related resources. Here's what is available:

Follow the links on Other Resources to find out more about the various types of wetlands found in the U.S. and their environmental significance.

On March 25, 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) jointly released a proposed rule to clarify protection under the Clean Water Act for streams and wetlands that form the foundation of the nation’s water resources.

Specifically, the proposed rule clarifies that under the Clean Water Act and based on the science:

  • Most seasonal and rain dependent streams are protected.
  • Wetlands near rivers and streams are protected.
  • Other types of waters may have more uncertain connections with downstream water and protection will be evaluated through a case specific analysis of whether the connection is or is not protecting similarly situated waters in certain geographic areas or adding to the categories of waters protected without case specific analysis


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