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Evolution of the Meaning of “Waters of the United States” in the Clean Water Act

Posted By Darrell Smith, Monday, August 15, 2016
The Congressional Research Service has issued a report that details the history of the term “Waters of the US” that may be of interest to some of our members...

“The scope of waters that are properly the subject of federal water pollution legislation has been the subject of long-standing consideration by all three branches of the federal government, particularly in the aftermath of the 1972 amendments to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, commonly referred to as the Clean Water Act. In a shift from early water pollution legislation, those amendments eliminated the requirement that the federally regulated waters—known as jurisdictional waters—must be navigable in the traditional sense, meaning that they are capable of being used by vessels in interstate commerce. Rather than use classical tests of navigability, the amendments redefined “navigable waters” for purposes of the Clean Water Act’s jurisdiction to include “the waters of the United States, including the territorial seas.” Disputes over the proper meaning of that phrase have been ongoing.”

To read the report, click here.

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