Webinar on February 27: Waters of the US (WOTUS) – What You Need to Know about the Rule and How to Take Action

February 27, 2019, 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. EST

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Efforts by the Trump administration are underway to roll back Clean Water Act protections for our nation’s streams and wetlands. The newly proposed rule to revise the definition of waters of the United States (WOTUS) aims to exclude many wetlands and headwater streams that are critical to fish, fisheries, and ecosystem services.  In 2015, the EPA finalized a WOTUS rule that based Clean Water Act protections on the degree of connectivity between navigable waters, wetlands, and headwater streams. The 2015 rule was informed by the best scientific information available, but the new WOTUS rule proposes to eliminate protections for all ephemeral streams and wetlands that do not have a surface connection to, or touch, navigable waters, and opens the door to removing protections for intermittent streams. Activities such as mining, industry, and development could move forward in these waters without federal safeguards, thereby having far-reaching implications for fish, wildlife, and ecosystem functioning, as well as economies dependent on those systems.

Join us for an informative and timely webinar to learn more about the proposed WOTUS rule, the science that contradicts it, and how to submit an effective regulatory comment.

A 60-day public comment period on the proposed rule will commence upon publication in the Federal Register. We encourage AFS members to submit formal comments on the rule to highlight proposed impacts on a state-by-state basis. Visit the AFS website for more information.

PRESENTERS

Gillian Davies will discuss the differences between existing regulations (the 2015 Clean Water Rule and pre-2015 regulations and guidance) and the proposed WOTUS rule revision.  Her presentation will outline the major proposed changes to federal regulation of waters, including the scope of the proposed rule, proposed expansion of exclusions from regulation, changes in how “adjacency” is defined, and the proposed relationship between federal and state regulations. Her presentation will also give a snapshot of the jurisdictions where the 2015 Clean Water Rule is in effect.

Dr. Mažeika Sullivan will explain how the proposed rule fails to align with the original intent of the Clean Water Act to “to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters” and will explain the many ways the rule is inconsistent with current science. He will highlight how the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are improperly interpreting the theoretical model developed by the EPA Science Advisory Board to illustrate how gradients in connectivity might be used to evaluate downstream impacts of changes to streams and wetlands to eliminate protections for these waters.

Dr. Susan Colvin will discuss a compelling new AFS paper, “Headwater Streams and Wetlands are Critical for Sustaining Fish, Fisheries, and Ecosystems.” The paper details how the loss of Clean Water Act protections for headwaters would result in a loss of ecosystem services, increase the threat to imperiled species, affect commercial and recreational fisheries, and impact fisheries of cultural value to Native Americans and the recreating public.

Drue Banta Winters, AFS Policy Director, will walk participants through the process of submitting an effective regulatory comment and how to broadly communicate the need to protect waters with a physical, chemical, and biological connection to navigable waters through a variety of channels.

ABOUT THE PRESENTERS

Gillian T. Davies, PWS is a registered Soil Scientist (SSSSNE), Sr. Ecological Scientist/Associate, BSC Group, and Visiting Scholar, Global Development & Environment Institute at Tufts University. Davies currently chairs the Society of Wetland Scientists (SWS) Public Policy and Regulation Section WOTUS committee, following a three-year term on the SWS Executive Board, during which she served as the 2016-2017 President of the Society. As a consultant, she provides a broad range of ecological services (e.g., ecological climate resiliency; wetland restoration and creation; federal, state, and local permitting; peer review; environmental monitoring; expert witness testimony), and manages projects, focusing on providing innovative solutions that often incorporate the latest research on wetlands and climate change.  Davies holds a Masters of Environmental Studies degree from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and a Bachelor of Arts from Williams College.

Dr. Mažeika Sullivan is an Associate Professor in the School of Environment and Natural Resources at The Ohio State University (OSU) and the Director of the Ramsar-designated Schiermeier Olentangy River Wetland Research Park. He received a B.A. in anthropology from Dartmouth College, and earned his M.S. in biology and Ph.D. in natural resources from the University of Vermont. Subsequently, he was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Idaho before joining the OSU faculty in 2008. Sullivan’s research focuses on water quality and aquatic ecosystems, where his work integrates community and ecosystem ecology, fluvial geomorphology, and biogeochemistry. He also served as a member of the EPA Scientific Advisory Board “Connectivity of Streams and Wetlands to Downstream Waters” Panel (2013-2014), is a lead author of the AFS paper “Headwater Streams and Wetlands are Critical for Sustaining Fish, Fisheries and Ecosystem Services,” and is an active member of the Society for Freshwater Science, the American Fisheries Society, and the Ecological Society of America.

Dr. Susan Colvin is an Assistant Professor of Sustainable Fisheries at Unity College in Maine. She is the lead author of the AFS paper “Headwater Streams and Wetlands are Critical for Sustaining Fish, Fisheries and Ecosystem Services.” Her research focuses on studying fishes across aquatic ecosystems with emphasis on assemblage changes along gradients of stream size, type, measures of heterogeneity, and anthropogenic influence. Colvin holds a Masters in fisheries from Oregon State University and Ph.D. in biological sciences from Auburn University.

Drue Banta Winters is the AFS Policy Director where she leads the organization’s policy advocacy efforts through thoughtful engagement with decision makers on issues that impact aquatic resources. AFS capitalizes on the expertise of its members to influence policy outcomes to benefit aquatic resources by sharing management knowledge and the best available science with decision makers. Winters is a seasoned policy and strategic communications advisor with special expertise in translating and communicating complex, scientific information in ways that are understandable to the general public.  She graduated from Louisiana State University with a B.A. in political science and a J.D. from the LSU Paul M. Hebert Law School.

The webinar will be recorded and available to AFS members online.

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