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SER Opposes WOTUS Redefinition

Wednesday, November 22, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Rebecca Shoer
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Washington DC, November 22, 2017


SER has joined with 11 other scientific societies in opposition to the proposed redefinition of “Waters of the United States” under the 2015 Clean Water Rule. This new definition, as described by Justice Antonin Scalia in his plurality opinion, excludes waters like wetlands, tributaries, and headwaters from federal protection. The “only plausible interpretation of [WOTUS],” he asserts, “includes only those relatively permanent, standing, or continuously flowing bodies of water.” His interpretation suggests that waterways lacking surface connections to lakes, streams, rivers, or oceans do not require federal protection. This interpretation is not supported by peer-reviewed science.

The proposed redefinition would make it impossible to achieve the objective of the Clean Water Rule, which is “to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s water.” In addition, the CWR states that pollutants cannot be released into waterways, yet does not specify where pollutants must be prevented. If the tributaries and wetlands connecting major waterways are not protected, they may easily become polluted and then simply feed this pollution into rivers, lakes, and streams.

The Scalia definition would also exclude some of the most significant wetlands in the country from federal protection, including: the Big Cypress Swamp of the Florida Everglades, the Okefenokee Swamp of Georgia and Florida, and the Hockomock Swamp of Massachusetts. In states without state-level regulations, wetlands would become completely unprotected under the redefined WOTUS.

The proposed redefinition of WOTUS was created without the input of the scientific community. These 12 societies, including SER, represent thousands of scientists in the fields of restoration, wetlands, fisheries, oceanography, and more. Countless studies have demonstrated the significant financial and biological services these so-called “impermanent” waterways provide, from preventing property damage during hurricanes to improving water quality. It is troubling that such a significant change to federal regulations could be made without the input of the scientists and researchers who study our nation’s waters.

You can read a copy of the letter here:

The public comment period for this proposed redefinition is open through December 13, 2017. Make your voice heard and reject this redefinition by submitting your comments here:


About SER
The Society for Ecological Restoration is an international non-profit organization dedicated to promoting ecological restoration as a means of sustaining the diversity of life on Earth and re-establishing an ecologically healthy relationship between nature and culture. 

Media Contact: 
Rebecca Shoer
Communications and Operations Associate
Society for Ecological Restoration
202.299.9518 /