Changes Likely to Come to Federal Wetlands Regulations

By Peter Fabris, Contributing Editor | September 21, 2017
Coastal wetlands may see big changes as federal wetlands regulations are revised by the Trump administration.

Big changes may be coming to federal wetlands regulations after the Trump Administration rescinded the Obama-era Clean Water Rule. A Trump executive order includes a paragraph that could trigger sweeping changes in the way wetlands will be regulated at the federal level, a California attorney told GlobeSt. Federal agencies are supposed to now interpret the phrase “navigable waters” consistent with the dictionary definition that are “relatively permanent, standing, or continuously flowing bodies of water.”

Compared to prior iterations of the wetland regulations, this view reflects a significant restraint on federal wetlands permitting authority. The new interpretation is likely to lead to more litigation over what constitutes “wetlands” in the federal regulatory scheme.

Even if the Trump Administration successfully redefines the scope of federal wetlands permitting authority, it’s likely that some states would move to reinstate tougher wetlands regulations. California, for instance, would be expected to implement new wetland regulations will create a permitting mechanism very similar to the previous federal regime.

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