Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Happy Birthday Clean Water Act: Legislation Turns 42 Saturday

The lower Santa Fe River, Columbia County. (Photo:SRWMD)

TALLAHASSEE, FL - This Saturday marks the 42nd anniversary of the Clean Water Act.

Before the legislation was put in place, only one-third of the country's waters were deemed safe for fishing and swimming.

Now, that number has doubled, and Manley Fuller, president and CEO of the Florida Wildlife Federation, says the best present Americans could give the landmark law is a restoration of protections for streams and wetlands, left vulnerable after Supreme Court decisions.

"This rule clarifies the Clean Water Act and it puts it back more like it was before 2000, and we think they're headed in the right direction," he explains.

In March, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a proposal that the agency says would improve the quality of drinking water supplies for a third of all Americans.

Opponents of the additional rules say they would have a negative impact on agriculture, but Fuller emphasizes the provisions actually exempt agriculture and would protect farmers.

Supporters of the EPA proposal point out the role water plays in the state's economy. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, the recreational fishing industry supports 80,000 jobs.

Fuller says the halt of two planned sea grass-dredging projects in Taylor County and Pasco County show how the Clean Water Act helps protect Florida's water supply and economy.

"The Clean Water Act has provided a vital role in stopping some bad projects and also modifying some projects to minimize the impacts to wetlands," he says. "So, the Clean Water Act is a vital cog in our efforts to protect habitat in the United States."

More than 700,000 members of the public have submitted comments supporting the rule. Comments are being accepted through Nov. 14.

Photos/graphics and links added by the Observer

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