Outdoor groups back expanded Clean Water Act

Several sporting and conservation groups put a high priority on winning approval of the Clean Water Restoration Act.

Trout Unlimited, Ducks Unlimited, the Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and the National Wildlife Federation all list the measure, S 787 by Russ Feingold, D-Wis., as a major issue.

Opponents say the bill is prelude to a federal government overreach.

The bill would expand federal control to all the waters of the United States: interstate waters,
intrastate lakes, rivers, streams, wetlands, mud flats, sand flats, sloughs, prairie potholes, wet meadows, playas and natural ponds, as well as tributaries to those waters.

Proponents of the measure say it would restore protections included in the 1972 Clean Water Act, which have since been torn down by court rulings.

The Trout Unlimited Web site said the act “would protect 20 million acres of wetlands and 2 million miles of rivers and streams that have lost protection in recent years because of misguided court rulings.”

The Clean Water Restoration Act is “a critical piece of legislation for wetlands and waterfowl,” Ducks Unlimited says on its Web site.

Other organizations backing the bill include the Sierra Club, Earthjustice, RiverKeeper and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

The National Water Resources Association, however, said in response to previous versions of the act, which was last reauthorized in 1996, that state control of water rights for beneficial use need to be protected.

Colorado’s senators, both Democrats, remain opposed.

Sen. Mark Udall urged that compromise language be worked out.

A spokeswoman for Sen. Michael Bennet said Bennet opposed the bill as written because it was overly broad.

Previous versions have started in the House of Representatives, but this time the measure is beginning in the Senate, where majority Democrats could have a filibuster-proof margin.

The measure sparked opposition from western Colorado officials, who said the measure would give the federal government control not only over water but of land-use decisions potentially affecting water quality.


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