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E-M:/ News Release: Great Lakes threat

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE           More Information:
Tuesday, March 23, 2004                                                 Cyndi Roper, 517-203-0754

Bush Policies Threaten Great Lakes
Agencies Ignore Clean Water Act Enforcement

LANSING, MI--Clean Water Action today called on the Bush administration to stop pursuing policies that threaten the Great Lakes and other waterways important to Michigan residents. The state's largest membership-based environmental group voiced its concern that the Bush administration is putting the Great Lakes at increased risk of pollution by threatening to deny longstanding Clean Water Act protections to its upstream waters.

"The Bush administration is saying one thing, and doing another," said Cyndi Roper, speaking for Clean Water Action.  "They claim to support clean water and achieving 'no net loss' of our wetlands, while their policy is writing off many of these waters that should still be protected under the law."

"Generations of Michigan residents have fished and boated on the Great Lakes, Lake St. Clair and other lakes.  And more than 30 years of Clean Water Act protections have been important to protect them from pollution.  But we surely know that if wetlands and ponds and small streams in its headwaters are opened up to pollution and destruction, we will see the Great Lakes deteriorate," said Roper.

In January 2003 the Bush administration issued a directive that instructed its agencies not to enforce Clean Water Act protections for many wetlands, small streams and other waters considered "isolated" without first obtaining permission from headquarters.  At that same time, the Bush administration also announced it was planning to rewrite Clean Water Act regulations to officially leave these waters without Clean Water Act protections.  In December, the administration publicly announced that it was dropping formal rule changes, but it is has since become clear that the agencies have directed their field staff to simply ignore parts of the existing Clean Water Act rules in applying federal pollution limits over many wetlands, small streams and other waters.

"The wetlands, streams and other headwaters are critically important parts of the Great Lakes watershed," said Roper.  "By failing to protect these waters, the Bush administration's policy will add to existing pollution problems and reverse decades of progress under the Clean Water Act."

In April  2003, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality opposed the administration's plans to narrow the scope of the Clean Water Act, arguing that nearly 1 million acres of the state's wetlands could be removed from Clean Water Act protections under the Bush policy.

Roper said many of the waters that could lose federal protections according to the Bush directive are not really "isolated" at all. Indications are that many wetlands, ponds, lakes and a number of streams are being denied protection under this policy  headwater wetlands and streams like those in the Great Lakes watershed.

Wetlands and small streams in the upper reaches of waterbodies such as  Great Lakes provide important services in trapping sediments, filtering out contaminants, and slowing flood waters, all of which serve to cleanse the water flowing into the Great Lakes.  Many of these small streams and wetlands that help keep waters clean in Michigan and elsewhere have been eliminated by development.

Clean Water Action joins with clean water advocates around the country to draw attention to the threats posed to our recreational waters and drinking water sources by the Bush administration's policies.   "We are, collectively, calling on the Bush administration to reverse its current policy and commit to upholding the Clean Water Act by applying its protections to all waters of the United States. In addition, the Bush administration should support legislation pending in the House and Senate that would reaffirm the historic scope of the Clean Water Act," said  Roper.
David Holtz
Clean Water Action
313-300-4454 cell