Protecting Our Waters

What does the Supreme Court’s decision in Sackett mean for Missouri rivers?

Under the Supreme Court's recent decision in Sackett v. EPA, more than half of the nation's wetlands are no longer protected by the Clean Water Act. That's bad news for Missouri's rivers.

A river in the Ozarks region of Missouri

Missouri has some amazing rivers. From its namesake waterway to the Current and Elk, these rivers provide opportunities for fishing and boating, habitat for wildlife, and drinking water. Unfortunately, a recent Supreme Court decision now leaves these rivers more vulnerable to pollution and degradation.

In Sackett v. EPA, 5 justices held that only wetlands with a continuous surface connection with other waterways are protected by the Clean Water Act. That extreme interpretation of the law leaves at least half of our nation’s remaining wetlands without federal protection. And polluters could soon try to extend the Court’s twisted logic to leave many Missouri streams unprotected as well.

That’s bad news for Missouri’s rivers. Wetlands are the kidneys of our ecosystem, filtering out pollution that can threaten the health of swimmers, wildlife and our drinking water.  And of course, our rivers depend on the streams that feed them.

The Court’s ruling is also bad news for our communities because wetlands absorb floodwaters.  The Mississippi River Basins’ flood of 1993 resulted in 50 casualties and damages of over $15 billion across the region.  How much worse will future floods be if developers are allowed to pave over our remaining marshes?

Missouri has already lost roughly 90 percent of its original wetlands. Our river ecosystems cannot tolerate further degradation.

We’ve been working to protect Missouri’s waterways for nearly 20 years — issuing research reports, generating public comments and organizing the support of key constituencies.

At this point, only Congress can restore the Clean Water Act protections that the Court has misguidedly removed. In the meantime, it is imperative that Missouri officials act immediately to adopt and enforce stronger policies to safeguard clean water and wetlands in particular.

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