I make my way to local rivers and high mountain lakes as often as possible to find solace, beauty and healthy habitats. Whent I’m not fishing, I am an engaged angler who stands up against bad decisions — like the omnibus budget bill that harm these places and species.
As an angler, I understand that rivers are all connected and part of a greater ecosystem, and keeping them that way is imperative for maintaining their health for future generations.
Sadly, the omnibus budget bill coming to a head in Congress right now is not showing our rivers the same courtesy. It could include three policy riders that will undermine Clean Water Act safeguards and set a terrible precedent for our nation. These riders are bad for fish, bad for fishing, and bad for families in Colorado.
These riders are broadly unpopular with the American public and could never pass the House or the Senate on a stand-alone vote. While there are other troubling elements in the budget, I want to focus on three ‘dirty water’ riders that are of particular importance to anglers and to everyone who cares about clean water and healthy rivers.
A recent Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership poll found that four out of five anglers and hunters support Clean Water Act protections for smaller streams and wetlands. Sadly, the current Administration is trying to repeal the Clean Water Rule, which clarifies and ensures exactly those types of protections. Many hunters and anglers joined the nearly 800,000 Americans who commented in favor of the Clean Water Rule before it was finalized in 2015.The widespread support for clean water is an obstacle to its repeal, because the law requires federal agencies to listen to public input and to provide a sound rationale for their actions before repealing a final rule. However, Congress is considering a rider that would give the Administration a free pass to repeal the Clean Water Rule without a clear rationale and without due consideration of the public’s input. This rider would also block the courts’ ability to review the agencies’ repeal action as potentially “arbitrary or capricious.” This rider is not just irresponsible; it is undemocratic.A second rider would eliminate Clean Water Act protections for the infamous Yazoo Pumps Project in Mississippi, which would destroy or damage up to 200,000 acres of wetlands. Responding to public outcry, the Bush Administration studied and then stopped this ill-advised project by exercising a rarely used Clean Water Act veto power in 2008. This rider would override the Bush Administration’s 2008 veto and require immediate construction of the Yazoo Pumps project at a cost of more than $220 million taxpayer dollars without any further analysis. This sets a terrible precedent that could affect rivers and wetlands elsewhere. The third rider adds insult to injury for anglers and the nation’s waters. Anglers like me prefer our waters to be full of fish, not muck. This rider would allow polluters to more easily dump dredged or fill material into streams and wetlands, putting our waters at risk. If this rider becomes law, America’s waters — and our drinking water quality — will suffer.Incredibly, the House may vote on this bill as early as today, even though no one has seen the text yet.
Some members of Congress are clearly hoping that anglers and other Americans will be watching March Madness instead of focusing on the madness on Capitol Hill. But we cannot afford to stay silent. We need Colorado’s senators and representatives to stand up against these and other policy riders that attack or undermine safeguards for the nation’s streams, wetlands, lakes and rivers.
Kara Armano, of Hesperus, is a passionate angler and outdoors woman. She manages communications for multiple fly fishing manufacturers and is a co-founder of Artemis, a sportswomen’s conservation group affiliated with the National Wildlife Federation. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (970) 319-5708.