By Jane Kay.
In its first act to shield California from the Trump administration’s repeal of regulations, the state’s water board has prepared its own rulesprotecting wetlands and other waters.
The proposed new rules, scheduled for a vote by the board this summer, could insulate the state from President Donald Trump’s executive order toroll back the reach of the Clean Water Act. That rollback would strip federal protection from seasonal streambeds, isolated pools and other transitory wetlands, exposing them to damage, pollution or destruction from housing developments, energy companies and farms.
“When you look at it from a historical perspective, California has lost the vast majority of the wetland resources,” said planner Paul Hann, who oversees the State Water Resources Control Board’s wetlands protection program. “We want to capture the rich diversity of wetlands across the state. These resources play a big role in improving our water quality and providing a valuable benefit in terms of flood protection, wildlife habitat and recreation.”
Over the past two centuries, California has lost roughly 90 percent of its wetlands, leaving 2.9 million acres, according to the California Natural Resources Agency. These remaining wetlands support more species of plants and animals than any other habitat, including an estimated 41 percent of California’s rare and endangered species.
Stepping in to protect its wetlands “is a prime example of a state exerting its right to protect itself from federal rollbacks,” said attorney Rachel Zwillinger, a water policy adviser for Defenders of Wildlife. “California is showing the type of state leadership that our system of cooperative federalism envisions.”