The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a proposal today that critics say would expand the reach of the Clean Water Act to cover most creeks and wetlands across the country.
The EPA says the rule would not broaden its jurisdiction. It says the rule just clarifies that most seasonal and rain-dependent streams are protected, as are wetlands near streams. The agency’s website says it does not cover ditches or groundwater. The EPA plans a 90-day public outreach tour to explain the rule.
The EPA’s emphasis is on protecting seasonal waterways, which is a big issue in arid Western states. But Sen. Lisa Murkowski says it would have a large impact on Alaska, too, because the state has abundant wetlands. She says the rule could effectively give the federal government control over most of the state, threatening access and development.