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Waters of the United States

*** ISSUE ALERT: In October 2015, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit issued a nationwide stay of the new federal regulation redefining “Waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) for the purposes of the Clean Water Act. Just a few months prior, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) had finalized the new regulation (now on hold) in an effort to clarify the scope of the statute’s requirements. USACE is not implementing the new rule, and is using the 1986 regulations and applicable jurisdictional guidance (status quo as it existed before the new rule) in making jurisdictional determinations or taking other actions based on the definition of WOTUS. Click here for a link to the USACE Regulatory Program webpage.***

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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