The clean water act: some want to weaken it
By TOM KANE
Last week, Neal Halloran and I from the Upper Delaware Visioning Committee went to Washington, D.C. to lobby for American rivers, specifically for the Upper Delaware River.
A group called American Rivers, a national organization whose aim is to protect rivers, streams, lakes and wetlands from contamination, organized the annual event, called the River Lobby Day.
We attended for two days. The first day was given over to a discussion of the New Clean Water Authority Restoration Act and a discussion of tips for how to lobby Congress.
The second day was dedicated to roaming the halls of Congress to visit our elected officials and explain how we want them to support this important legislation.
Halloran and I also lobbied against the controversial proposal by New York Regional Interconnect, Inc. (NYRI) to put high-voltage electric lines through our area, a proposal opposed by every community through which the lines would pass. Every official we spoke to expressed opposition to the NYRI plan.
Halloran and I, together with a small group of three others from New York State, visited the elected officials representing the members of the group: Congressman Maurice Hinchey, Congresswomen Sue Kelly from Orange County and Carolyn Maloney of Manhattan, Senators Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton. As a Honesdale resident, I visited Pennsylvania Congressman Don Sherwood.
Unfortunately, none of these officials were in Washington on that particular day, so we spoke to their staff people.
With regard to the New Clean Water Authority Restoration Act, which has the identifying numbers of H.R. 1356 in the House and S. 912 in the Senate, we learned that there are many in Congress who want to weaken the act and limit its scope and power. Even though the bill has 163 House co-sponsors, there are many more who are in favor of making it less restrictive, especially Republicans, who now hold majority control of both House and Senate. In the Senate, there were only 17 senators who were willing to co-sponsor the act.
These opponents of strong protection for our watersheds have produced a new version of the act that will limit the number of streams for which a permit would be required for nearby development. They want to exempt secondary streams; that is, streams that only carry water when it rains. Since such waterways account for 60 percent of the streams in the nation, the result would be a huge reduction in the protection of our nations water.
Of all the officials we met, only Don Sherwoods staff said they were unclear about the act. The others voiced support for the stronger version of the act.
Its important for all of us in the river valley to be supportive of the expanded version of the new act that will protect all streams, especially those that feed into our Delaware River. The Upper Delaware Visioning Committee will keep our eye on the progress of this legislation and inform you about what is happening. We urge all of you to contact your member of Congress to voice your support to the stronger version, especially if you are in Sherwoods district. It was clear from our experience in Congress that they pay particular attention to letters from constituents.