Updating Regulations on Water Quality Certification

In addition to many other environmental policies, there are numerous factions involved in changing our water quality regulations and various aspects of the Clean Water Act. Stay updated here and elsewhere in the news.

Wikipedia has a fairly straightforward account of the background behind the rules. Understanding the jurisdiction over various isolated wetlands, ephemeral streams and man-made waters has been a confusing subject for permitting biologists for quite some time. There are also other agencies including the Coastal Commission, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, US Fish and Wildlife, Tribal Governments, National Marine Fisheries Service and local municipalities that often claim jurisdiction or require permits for various wetlands and waters impacts. Oftentimes these agencies have conflicting goals or management principals and permit applicants/consulting biologists must learn negotiation techniques and conflict management to find solutions that will be acceptable by all of the resource agencies.

An example that comes up frequently is when one agency wants a man-made feature, such as a ditch or pond removed, and another agency would like it preserved as it is functioning as habitat for various aquatic species. Another is when one agency wants invasive species removed but another agency may want the species left in place as the removal may impact water quality (I was once told on a site-visit that my proposal to remove “old growth Pampas grass” was unacceptable as it would cause erosion). Yet another example is when one agency would like for a mitigation project to create a certain kind of habitat and another agency argues that it should be a different habitat type. In most cases there are valid arguments on all sides, but a great deal of staff time and money (both private and public) are exhausted determining which agency has jurisdiction when there are overlapping areas.

There is so much going on in the world right now, and it is hard to keep up on everything, but our water quality is important and regardless of where one stands politically, it is up to all of us to pay attention and be involved in the process of how water resources are protected and managed.

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