Protecting Ohio Water Quality

May 23rd, 2014

From OCF’s 2014 Initiatives: Protect Ohio Water Quality – Support intensified efforts to control harmful algal blooms and other factors that harm drinking water and negatively impact fish and wildlife in Ohio’s lakes, streams, and wetlands.

Earlier this week, OCF was asked to participate in a telephone press conference on the value of the restoring  protections afforded wetlands and tributaries under the 1972 Clean Water Act that had been muddied by Supreme Court rulings in 2001 and 2006.  These waters, so important to wildlife, are integral to our hunting, fishing and trapping heritage. Subsequent to these Supreme Court rulings, the rate of wetlands loss across the U.S. increased by 140 percent (2004-2009).

The new rule, proposed by the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers, with participation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, restores some, but not all protections, to many vulnerable streams and wetlands. The clarifying language in the rule preserves the existing exemptions for farming, forestry, mining and other land use activities and explicitly excludes many upland water features important to farming and forestry.

Balancing the needs of safe drinking water, wildlife habitat, and ag and industrial uses is as complex an issue as any we as sportsmen, farmers, businesses, and citizens face.

I was asked to prepare a 2-3 minute long statement, the text of which is below:

21 May 2014

Re: WOTUS Press Call

Dear Colleagues,

My name is Matt Misicka, I am the Vice President of the Ohio Conservation Federation. The Federation represents a collaboration between national, statewide, and regional organizations in Ohio. Our membership includes the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association, Pheasants Forever, Buckeye Firearms Association, Ducks Unlimited, the Ohio State Trappers Association, and the National Wildlife Federation. Combined, these groups count more than 70,000 Ohioans as members. At our inaugural meeting this past February, representatives of our member organizations placed Pro-Actively Supporting Legislation Beneficial to Conservation and Protecting Ohio Water Quality among our nine 2014 Initiatives.

Putting aside the obvious value of safe drinking water, of key importance to Ohio’s 1.5 million hunters, anglers and trappers is the significant protections the WOTUS rule reinstates to Ohio’s critical wetlands and seasonal, intermittent and ephemeral streams. Left vulnerable or unprotected by the 2001 and 2006 SCOTUS rulings, the proposed WOTUS ruling, supported by more than 1000 pieces of peer-reviewed scientific literature, provides needed guidance regarding protection for those bodies of water that provide fundamental habitat and food for Ohio’s fish, furbearers, and waterfowl.

Ohio’s waters fuel a sustainable hunting, fishing, and trapping economic engine worth nearly $3 billion per year and employing more than 34,000. Add to that sum recreational boating (400,000 licensed boats in Ohio) and wildlife watching and that value nearly doubles. Clean, productive waters are essential to Ohio’s sporting heritage and outdoor economy.

Water is a unique natural resource. Unlike forests and minerals, water is always on the move; whether into the atmosphere through evaporation and transpiration, percolating through soil and bedrock, or carried by currents downstream. Science clearly shows strong evidence linking the protection of wetlands and tributaries to the quality of drinking water and wildlife habitat. Agricultural, industrial, municipal, and outdoor interests each have a share in the responsibility for ensuring safe drinking water, productive wildlife habitat, essential industries, and a complex economy. This ruling helps restore clarity to those responsibilities for both the regulators and the potentially regulated, without broadening the historical coverage of the Clean Water Act (CWA) in effect from 1972-2000.

Let me conclude by reminding everyone that it was the burning of Ohio’s Cuyahoga river in 1969 that is most often pointed to as the seminal event that lead to the original, bi-partisan creation of the CWA in 1972. While work remains to be done on that watershed, that same once dead crooked river, provided the protections of the CWA, now lends its name to the 33,000 acre Cuyahoga Valley N.P., visited by 2-3 million visitors a year, and home to bald eagles, peregrine falcons, beaver, bass, and steelhead trout. This is a shining example of what clear, thoughtful, clean water legislation can accomplish.

The WOTUS clarifications provided by this ruling ultimately help to protect Ohio’s sporting heritage and maintain its thriving outdoor economy by restoring protections to the those waters that sportsmen and women care about the most.

If I can be of any further assistance, or can answer any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. Sincerely,

Matt Misicka
Vice President, Ohio Conservation Federation

Also on the call was Karen Hobbs representing the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Media on the call included: the Detroit News, Erie (PA) Times, Cleveland Plain Dealer, PennLive and several others…