Clear water fight looms



The 1972 Clean Water Act, enacted in the early years of the environmental movement, has been undercut by court rulings. U.S. Rep. James Oberstar of Minnesota is trying to get legislation passed to satisfy the court’s concerns, while restoring the law as a powerful tool.

The court decisions have affected the federal role in regulation of streams, rivers, lakes, wetlands and coastal waters. In Rapanos v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court questioned the sweep of federal power under the law and urged Congress to more clearly link navigable federal waters with wetlands.

Nevada is less affected than most states because only one of the state’s rivers flows out of state, but it still benefits from the law’s provisions. For instance, last year as a result of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lawsuit, the Union Pacific Railroad Company agreed to spend millions to restore wetlands and mountain streams in Nevada.

But some critics of Oberstar’s legislation are attacking his bill in Nevada’s name. For instance, Melissa Subbotin, a press aide to Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah told the Salt Lake Tribune that the new bill would regulate everything from “the Black Rock Desert playa in Nevada to your backyard water.”