The Clean Water Act (CWA) is intended to support the availability of safe water for all by making it illegal to dispose of pollution into streams. For historical reasons, the CWA is structured around “navigable waters” like rivers, but clearly anything that gets into a tributary or even the soils around streams can influence water quality. Where else would this pollution go?
Consequently, a source of concern and source of confusion has been what happens in non-naviigable headwaters, the small tributaries feeding into streams and rivers, and even ditches, themselves often recommissioned streams. The Clean Water Rule offers some specific guidance to what is included within the CWA. It stipulates that for a stream to be included, it needs to have moving water more than just during a rainfall event, and must show some sort of physical features indicating flowing water. This might be a streambed or bank or some other indication of high water. And then there is the issue of nearby waters, such as wetlands which are not obviously connected to a stream. The limit for those protections is 1500 feet. Ditches not replacing streams are not covered.
These types of clarification are beneficial because they will dramatically reduce the uncertainties of application that crop up when deciding whether the CWA applies. Environmentalists concerned about losses and water quality have gained clarity regarding protection of waterways that feed into navigable waters, and the agricultural industry knows more clearly what its limits are as well. It is important to note that there are a variety of exemptions for agricultural practices already within the Clean Water Act, and these are not altered.
Here are a couple of posts elsewhere on the topic:
Emily Stulik’s MS research on amphibian occupancy in Eagle Marsh Nature Preserve is being featured in an interview by Virginia Alvino from our local public radio station, WBOI. Emily is working to assess the health and viability of the restored wetlands managed by Little River Wetlands Project through amphibian surveys. Emily took Virginia through the forested wetlands of Eagle Marsh to listen to species call and explain her findings. Emily is Bruce Kingsbury’s graduate student at IPFW. Her work was supported by the Environmental Resources Center, the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, and Sigma Xi.
IPFW’s Dr. Sherrie Steiner and her Environmental Sociology students completed their initial investigation into industrial sites and environmental hazards in Blackford County, 50 miles south of Fort Wayne. They generated maps and made videos documenting their efforts. Here is a link to one of their videos:
The ERC worked with the class to help them collect and depict spatial information using GIS. Here is an example of one of thier products!
“The mapping expertise that the university brings to this project are a tremendous benefit for the community,” said Dr. Indra Frank, the Hoosier Environmental Council’s environmental health project director. “This will help us have a clearer picture of possible environmental hazards.” As professor Steiner noted, “This project has been collaboratively designed and implemented with our community partners,” said Sherrie Steiner, Visiting Assistant Professor of Sociology at IPFW. “I am hoping that this experience will strengthen a sense of civic responsibility and personal efficacy within students and among members of the community as pertains to environmental engagement.”
Our city’s largest Earth Day event. Celebrate Earth Day and Little river Wetland Project’s 25th anniversary. Booths showcasing the conservation work of local businesses and environmental groups, birds of prey from Soarin’ Hawk Raptor Rehab, presentations on nature topics, interactive nature education stations, children’s activities, and more. Come by the ERC display and say “Hi” or listen to my talk on the reptiles and amphibians of the area at 1:15. Lots of talks and activities all afternoon.
The Water Quality Information Service is a resource for researchers, agency officials, and the general public for organizing and presenting historic water quality data from the St. Joseph River and its tributaries. The WQIS is maintained by the St. Joseph River Watershed Initiative in collaboration with the ERC hosting it at IPFW.
Pick your location, pollutant and time frame and see what you get as a graph or as a table. The service is limited by the data available for it. We hope in the future to add: sites, data sets and new features!!
The WQIS is free, but registration is required so that we can learn who is using it.