Point-Counterpoint: Repairing the Clean Water Act

By Brent A. Fewell
July 20, 2009
Currently, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (hereinafter referred to as the “Clean Water Act”) protects “navigable waters” defined as “waters of the United States.” For most of the Act’s history, the term “waters of the United States” has been broadly construed to mean virtually all surface waters, the regulation of such waters being necessary to fulfill the Act’s objective to “restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters.” However, two recent Supreme Court decisions, Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County (SWANCC) v. Army Corps of Engineers and Rapanos v. United States, placed limits on the scope of the Act’s jurisdictional reach, especially as it relates to isolated water bodies and those not having a significant connection to navigable waters...