Trump wetlands rule rollback makes about 6 million acres in Florida unprotected
The EPA's own figures show the rolback of Obama-era regulations will leave 51 percent of the nation's wetlands unprotected. Florida has 12 million acres of wetlands, more than all but one other state.
A new definition of federally protected wetlands that the Trump administration unveiled this week would make an estimated 6 million acres of Florida's wetlands vulnerable to developers and other interests that seek to wipe them out, according to figures from the Environmental Protection Agency.
The figures, first reported by an energy and environment publication called E&E News, say the new wetlands definition would remove federal protection under the Clean Water Act from about 51 percent of all of the nation's wetlands. Florida has about 12 million acres of wetlands, the most of any state except Alaska.
Losing federal protection for half of them "could alter the Florida landscape pretty significantly," said Jan Goldman-Carter, senior manager for wetlands at the National Wildlife Federation. "There will be a significant impact on water quality as a result."
Stetson University law school dean Royal Gardner, a former attorney for the federal agency in charge of issuing wetlands permits, called the proposed change an "attempt to gut Clean Water Act protections by proposing a restrictive definition of waters of the United States."
And Brad Cornell of Audubon Florida pointed out that “this is a very bad time to lessen protection for wetlands and watersheds in Florida — we are in the second year of just about continuous Red Tide affliction.” A Red Tide toxic algae bloom is fueled by pollution in storm runoff, which can be filtered and cleaned up by wetlands.
The new rule, unveiled by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, says that the only wetlands that will be federally protected are those immediately adjacent to a major body of water, or ones that are connected to such a waterway by surface water.