Proposed Rule Threatens Important Protections for Wetlands and Creeks

The map above shows drinking water sources in Alabama that may be affected by the proposed rule change. Big Creek Lake is shown as the red dot at the bottom corner of the map.

Map - Southern Environmental Law Center

Clean Water is a way of life in the South, and here in Coastal Alabama protecting our waters against pollution is a top priority. For nearly 50 years, the bipartisan Clean Water Act (CWA) has protected America’s families, businesses and communities by preventing unchecked pollution from contaminating our creeks, wetlands, and drinking water sources.

A proposed rule change was announced today that would strip the Clean Water Act of important protections. This new rule would remove critical safeguards from nearly 60% of Alabama’s 130,000+ miles of waterways and 75% of our wetlands. These protections are critical to our ability to continue to drink clean water, hunt, fish, and swim. Allowing this proposed rule change would let industrial facilities, sewage plants, and developers dump into many previously protected creeks and fill wetlands without restrictions, harming our local economy and way of life.

What’s at Stake?

The Big Creek Lake watershed shown above is the drinking water source for more than 300,000 people in Mobile and Baldwin County.

Map - Mobile Area Water and Sewer System

Drinking Water

Big Creek Lake, the drinking water supply for more than 300,000 people and thousands of businesses in Mobile and Baldwin counties, is dependent on clean water flowing from small streams and wetlands into the lake. Changing the rule would remove critical protections from small upstream waterbodies that flow into the lake and could put drinking water at risk.

Hunting and Fishing

The proposed rule change would be bad for hunting and fishing too. Conservation organizations have explained that protecting wetlands are essential for millions of waterfowl. The new rule would no longer include regulations that protect many of these important wetlands.

Duck Hunters walk through a wetland complex. Wetlands such as these are critical habitat for waterfowl, fish, and other animals.

Photo credit: USFWS/Ryan Hagarty

Even the smallest bodies of water serve as habitat for waterfowl and fish. For ducks to thrive, they need grass and water. We are fortunate to have a great mix of both here in Coastal Alabama, especially in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta. Unfortunately, the rollback of this important rule will place important habitats at risk. You can read more about a similar case in the Great Plains here.

What Won’t Change

Normal Farming Activities

Activities like plowing, planting, and harvesting will continue to be exempt from the Clean Water Act (CWA) regulations. Regular farming activities are not currently regulated by the CWA and will continue to occur without being regulated by the CWA. The proposed rule instead eliminates regulations important for protecting our wetlands and streams.

We know our wetlands and streams are important for fish and wildlife habitat, protection from flooding, and overall water quality-- all of which make our area so special to live in. The proposed rule change threatens these critically important places.

“This rule change would let industrial facilities, sewage plants, and developers fill, cross, and pollute many previously protected rivers, creeks, and wetlands, without thought to the impact on our local economy and way of life.”

“Clean Water is our primary source of recreation, a healthy community, and the economic vitality of our region. Seafood, tourism, real estate and many manufacturing industries require clean water to be successful. Protecting rivers, creeks, streams and wetlands is Mobile Baykeeper’s top priority and this rule is a primary safeguard against pollution.”
-Casi Callaway

Asphalt parking lot illegally constructed in wetland. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army)

Take Action

We encourage the community to speak up to defend our water so our children and grandchildren can continue drink clean water, hunt, fish, swim, work and play for years to come. Baykeeper urges you to contact your elected officials and make your voice heard. After that, go to www.ProtectSouthernWaters.org to sign-up to get critical alerts on this issue and get involved in submitting comments to protect our creeks and wetlands.

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