EPA rule change will remove Clean Water Act protections for wetlands, small streams

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WASHINGTON, N.C. (WNCT) – The Trump administration is changing the rules for wetlands and smaller waterways.

This announcement is getting a mixed response from different groups. 

The Navigable Waters Protection rule sets new definitions for waters of the United States.

Moving forward this new rule will reduce the amount of U.S. waterways that get federal protection under the Clean Water Act. 

It’s being welcomed by farmers, builders and mining companies.

They believe it will clear up confusion for property owners and clear the path for more economic development.

“Our new rule significantly curtails the all too familiar practice of having to hire teams of attorneys to tell people how to use their own land,” says EPA administrator, Andrew Wheeler. 

But not everyone is on board.

Sound Rivers, a local non-profit, believes this could lead to more flooding and other problems in the state’s waterways.

Matthew Starr is the Upper Neuse Riverkeeper and shares that the change could impact streams and wetlands previously protected for decades.

“It appears to be quite detrimental and harmful to wetlands. It also erases protections for smaller streams and both of those things are very important in North Carolina,” Starr says. 

Environmental groups are concerned this rule change could also weaken public-health protection tied to the nationwide drinking-water crisis.

The government’s environmental rollback is expected to have different impacts, depending on the state.

In the coming weeks, Sound Rivers will continue to monitor this new rule change and determine the impact that it will have on communities here in eastern North Carolina. 

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