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U.S. EPA Highlights 1st Ever National Wetlands Condition Assessment, Changing Federal Protections for California Wetlands

Release Date: 06/02/2011
Contact Information: Mary Simms, simms.mary@epa.gov (415) 947-4270

Field sampling taking place in San Mateo, San Diego, Orange, Solano, Contra Costa, Ventura, Marin, Monterey, Humboldt, San Joaquin and additional counties throughout California, U.S

SAN FRANCISCO — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is hosting a press availability today to highlight a national effort to assess the health of the nation’s wetlands, and an opportunity to provide input on proposed changes to how the government protects wetlands. The media event is being held at the Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in Elk Grove, California, where scientists will be simultaneously sampling nearby wetlands as part of the National Wetlands Condition Assessment (NWCA).

The NWCA is a collaboration between EPA and its state, tribal, and federal partners representing the first-ever national field survey on the health of the nation’s wetlands. More than 1,000 sites across the country—including 43 in California—are being surveyed to assess indicators of wetland health, including water quality and flow, vegetation, and soils. NCWA sampling locations during the next two months will include wetlands in the following California counties: San Mateo, San Diego, Orange, Solano, Contra Costa, Ventura, Marin, Monterey, Humboldt, San Joaquin, Inyo, Merced, and Mendocino.

EPA officials will also be answering questions regarding recent draft guidance on federal wetlands protection. The draft Guidance, developed with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, aims to clarify which waters are subject to protection under the Clean Water Act, and is open to public input until July 1st. Formal regulations clarifying when the CWA applies may follow the guidance, a process which would again involve public input.

“Wetlands filter pollution, and protect communities from flooding while providing habitat for fish, fowl and flora,” said Alexis Strauss, EPA’s water division director for the Pacific Southwest. “The draft Clean Water Act guidance will reaffirm our intent to protect these vital and vanishing resources to the fullest extent of the law, while providing greater clarity to the regulated public.”

Between 80 and 95 percent of California’s original wetlands and stream-side (“riparian”) habitats have been destroyed or modified. For nearly 40 years, the Clean Water Act has been a cornerstone of EPA’s effort to ensure that Americans have clean and healthy waters. The draft guidance, part of the Obama administration's national clean water framework, implements recent Supreme Courtdecisions addressing what types of waters could be subject to traditional CWA protections. The framework outlines a series of actions across federal agencies to ensure the integrity of the waters Americans rely on every day for drinking, swimming, and fishing, and that support farming, recreation, tourism and economic growth.

The National Wetland Condition Assessment (NWCA) survey was designed by EPA’s Office of Research and Development and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It will use a probability-based model to estimate the health of aquatic resources consistently nation-wide to ensure that the results can be compared across the country.

Used along with similar surveys on the nation’s coastal waters, wadeable streams, rivers, and lakes, the NWCA results will help us to better protect, maintain, and restore our nation’s water quality and vanishing aquatic habitat.

For additional details if you would like to attend today’s press availability, please visit: http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/0/d4a2c80571f73050852578a10058f38c?OpenDocument

To view a list of the California locations that will be sampled as part of the assessment and for additional photos, please visit: http://www.epa.gov/region9/mediacenter/wetlands

To read the draft Waters of the United States" guidance and for information on how to submit a comment, please visit: http://www.water.epa.gov/lawsregs/guidance/wetlands/CWAwaters.cfm.

To learn more about the National Wetlands Conditions Assessment, please visit: http://water.epa.gov/type/wetlands/assessment/survey/index.cfm

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