EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers aim to cut protections for thousands of streams

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Proposal leaves important drinking water sources and habitat unprotected from pollution 

For immediate release 

Dec. 11, 2018 

Steve Moyer, steve.moyer@tu.org, (571) 274-0593
Vice President of Government Affairs

Shauna Stephenson, shauna.stephenson@tu.org (307) 757-7861
National Communications Director

(Dec. 11, 2018) WASHINGTON D.C. -- Trout Unlimited announced its strong opposition to the proposed rollback of protections for thousands of miles of streams and many wetlands today by the Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency. 

The proposal outlines an ill-conceived approach to applying the Clean Water Act by eliminating protection for thousands of stream miles in the country – streams that supply drinking water for millions of Americans. It also erases protections for thousands of acres of wetlands, a critical component to a functioning watersheds. 

 The proposal will deregulate a host of development activities, such as pipeline construction that will, over time, degrade hunting and fishing opportunities in every state in the country. 

“Today’s proposal is so far off track that you cannot see the track from where this proposal landed,” said Chris Wood, president and CEO of Trout Unlimited. “Headwater streams, especially ephemeral streams, are like the capillaries in our bodies – they're small and easy to overlook, but we wouldn’t last long without them. It is a fundamentally flawed proposal.” 

Polls show Americans overwhelmingly support protections for clean water and the Clean Water Act. 

“The Agencies’ proposal turns its back on the importance of small headwater streams to healthy waterways and sportfishing recreation," said Steve Moyer, vice president of government affairs for Trout Unlimited.  “Sportsmen and women know that we all live downstream. All the benefits of our larger streams, rivers, and bays are dependent on the health of our small streams.” 

Using the Clean Water Act to protect headwater streams is especially valuable to Trout Unlimited. At a basic level, 59 percent of rivers and stream miles in the lower 48 states are intermittent or ephemeral (i.e., they are small or headwater streams that do not flow year-round). However, in the drier southwest, that figure is higher. In Arizona, 96 percent of the waters are intermittent or ephemeral streams. EPA Region 8, consisting of Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Montana and the Dakotas, estimates that only 17 percent of the waters in its states flow year-round.   

Headwater streams contribute to the drinking water supplies of 117 million Americans, protect communities from flooding, and provide essential fish and wildlife habitat that support a robust outdoor recreation economy worth $887 billion.  

“Clean water is not a political issue. It is a basic right of every American,” Wood said. “To be effective, the Clean Water Act must be able to control pollution at its source -- upstream in the headwaters and wetlands that flow downstream through communities to our major lakes, rivers, and bays. We urge the Agencies to reconsider their flawed proposal and remember the very purpose of the Clean Water Act.” 

Frequently asked questions: 

How Did We Get Here?  

When the Clean Water Act was passed in 1972, it protected virtually all of America’s waters--every type of stream, wetland, river, lake or bay. A 2001 Supreme Court decision first questioned if all wetlands and streams should in fact be protected--and the issue has become ever-more politicized since then. 

In 2015, under President Obama, the EPA finalized a rule (the Clean Water Rule) clarifying that the Clean Water Act protects all of our nation’s streams and millions of acres of wetlands. The rule gained strong support from sportsmen, scientists and the public, but it was opposed by a powerful coalition of agriculture and development interests  

What’s happening now? 

Early in 2017, President Trump directed the EPA to first rescind and then replace the Clean Water Rule. The Administration’s efforts to rescind the 2015 Rule have partially blocked, as the 2015 Rule is in effect in 22 states. The new proposal, unveiled today, is an unwarranted effort to replace the 2015 Rule. The new proposal is NOT based in science and is NOT consistent with the goals of the Clean Water Act. The new rollback proposal will undermine long standing protections for wetlands and small streams, it will harm hunting and fishing in America. 

Why should sportsmen care? 

The Clean Water Act and the 2015 Rule are vital to TU’s work and to anglers across the nation. Whether TU is working with farmers to restore small headwater streams in West Virginia, removing acidic pollution caused by abandoned mines in Pennsylvania, or protecting the world-famous salmon-producing, 14,000-jobs-sustaining watershed of Bristol Bay, Alaska, we rely on the Clean Water Act to safeguard our water quality improvements. 

TU members, and sportsmen and women nationwide, want to move forward with progress on cleaning up our nation’s waters, not go backwards. Thus, the Clean Water Act needs to be improved, not weakened—the as was the case in today’s proposal. 


 Trout Unlimited is the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring North America’s trout and salmon and their watersheds. Follow TU on Facebook and TwitterInstagram and our blog for all the latest information on trout and salmon conservation.  


Voluntary fishing closures across the state

Headwaters of the Roaring Fork River.  Wikimedia Commons

Headwaters of the Roaring Fork River. Wikimedia Commons

Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) has issued voluntary fishing closures across Colorado. This is in response to the low flows and high temperatures many of our rivers have been experiencing. When stressful conditions like these are present, trout are more likely to not survive after catch-and-release, even if done properly. 

If you have not yet seen the warnings about fishing when the water temperatures are above 65 degrees, check out our Trout Thermometer to know when it's time to give the fish a break. 

CPW will not legally enforce the voluntary closures, but simply ask anglers to plan on going earlier in the day or try other locations.

Voluntary Closures after 12pm

Voluntary Closures Between 2 p.m. and Midnight

Read the full voluntary fishing closures in Northwest Colorado press releas

Full-time Voluntary Closures

Closures NO LONGER in Effect

  • A mandatory fishing closure in place at the tailwater of the Yampa River has been rescinded (see 7/19/18 news release).

CPW regularly updates their fishing conditions online here. So be sure to check before you head out on your fishing excursion. 

Still need more information? Contact your local CPW office. 


Run. Catch. No cheating.


REPOST from The Dirtbag Diaries Podcast:

"There are a lot of serious problems in this world, but the solutions don’t always have to be serious. Fly-fisherman and trail-runner Andrew Todd channeled his concern for Colorado’s native trout and the watersheds that support them into the creation of a joyful, irreverent, event: The Flyathlon.

The rules:

  1. Run 10-miles
  2. Catch a fish
  3. Don’t be a jack-donkey
  4. No fish in your Camelbak that you brought from somewhere else.

Cordelia Zars–and a group of Flyathletes–on Gunnison, Colorado’s Lake Fork River joined Dirtbag Diaries for an interview, listen below. 

Learn more and register for a Flyathlon at flyathlon.com or check out Andrew’s non-profit at runningrivers.org "

Cold Water 1: If it's good for the fish, then it's good for the beer.

Pictured: A glass of Cold Water 1, right from the tap. It's a lightly hopped pilsner with tones of mountain sage and wild currant (where the deep red color comes from). 

Pictured: A glass of Cold Water 1, right from the tap. It's a lightly hopped pilsner with tones of mountain sage and wild currant (where the deep red color comes from). 

Odell Brewing in Fort Collins has become a valued friend of Trout Unlimited and the Rocky Mountain Flycasters Chapter. They recognize the benefit their business derives from low cost, high quality water. Equally important, many of their patrons enjoy and recreate on the rivers and streams that we are so committed to protecting or improving. They have been generous supporters of our work, and we both have come to realize that ‘If it’s good for fish, it’s good for beer’!

Recently, we received an invite to come into the brewery and craft a beer in honor of TU and specifically, the launch of the long-awaited Poudre Headwaters Greenback Restoration Project. On May 30th, members of Rocky Mountain Flycasters and US Forest Service met at Odell Brewing to craft a new beer to celebrate both the Poudre Headwaters Project and TU.

While many of us involved in crafting the beer enjoy the post-production product, none of us were well-schooled in the details of making beer. Marni Wahlquist, a head pilot brewer at Odell Brewing, guided us through every step of the approximate six-hour brewing process. Our first decision was to decide on type and flavor profile of the beer. Following discussion, we settled on a lightly hopped pilsner with tones of mountain sage and wild currant. The two-row barley used in the pilsner paid homage to the agricultural community from which the project has evolved. In keeping with a high mountain stream theme, we settled on a name for the beer – Cold Water 1. The name refers to a grading system used by State agencies to describe aquatic habitat. 

Cold Water 1 references the highest level of stream water quality. Cold and fresh, just like beer should be!
Pictured left to right: Matt Fairchild, USFS Fisheries Biologist and Project Lead; Mickey McGuire RMF President; Wil Huett RMF; Dick Jefferies, CTU Board Vice President

Pictured left to right: Matt Fairchild, USFS Fisheries Biologist and Project Lead; Mickey McGuire RMF President; Wil Huett RMF; Dick Jefferies, CTU Board Vice President

Fast forward to July 1st. A warm, sunny day. Perfect weather for the Cold Water 1 release party at Odell Brewing. While the party was scheduled for 1pm, I was determined to be at Odell when they opened to insure a chance at the first draw of our newly crafted beer. While not a beer aficionado, I find it to be refreshing, lightly hopped, a bit fruity but not overpowering, with a hint of sage on the nose after swallow. Cold and fresh! Just like beer should be. Just like streams should be.It is a beer that reminds us all – If it’s good for fish, it’s good for beer.

Check out Odell Brewing Co. and you can try the new beer at the location in Fort Collins.

Written by Dick Jefferies, CTU Board Vice President

Rain's Effect on Rivers and Fish

Taken by David Zalubowski

Colorado has become unrecognizable. If one were to take a look out of their window while flying into DIA they would see nothing but green, lush land for miles and miles. “Wait a minute,” the natives are thinking, “I haven’t seen anything like this in Colorado… this isn’t normal.” But it’s becoming the new normal thanks to persistent and consistent rain storms that have dominated the afternoons for the past month. Although May is usually Denver’s wettest, cloudiest month these storms have led to rainfall amounts that are far from the usual. So far in 2015 Denver has received more than 11 inches of rain, just a few inches shy of the total average yearly rainfall amount of 14 inches. All this rain is not entirely unwelcome. Too much water is still not enough water for Coloradans considering the fact we’re an extremely dry state and no stranger to droughts. Overflowing rivers and streams, hydrated agriculture, and plentiful amounts of water for cities is far superior to the severely water deprived lands states like California are currently suffering from. On the other hand, too much rain does not bode well for river and fish health.

More rain means more pollution ending up in our rivers due to runoff that picks up pesticides, sediment, bacteria, and other pollutants as it makes its way into our rivers. Bad bacteria and pollution could lead to oxygen depletion, or even hypoxic river conditions; conditions that are not conducive to healthy aquatic environments.

The sudden influx of water also creates rivers with a much higher velocity than is normal. According to USGS, the South Platte River is flowing at 782 percent of its normal flow, and the Cache La Poudre is flowing at 702 percent. These high river flows due to rain could be a symptom of climate change. The usual source of water for Colorado’s rivers is snowmelt, but as temperatures rise and snowpack lessens in the lower mountains (below 8200 ft.) it’s possible rain could become a new water source. However, A report done for the Colorado Water Conservation Board (click here for full report) states that as of right now it’s difficult to tell whether average annual precipitation will increase or decrease within the next 35 years. Due to high variability, determining whether long-term trends in annual precipitation are changing is nearly impossible right now, so this year’s immense rain falls could just be a temporary anomaly. That being said, it’s important for anglers to recognize that changes in water sources are quite possible.

Water flowing at high rates due to rain means the river turns into a muddy mess, which disrupts trout activity. Trout are water snobs; they thrive in cold, high quality, extremely clean water (as stated in Trout Unlimited’s State of the Trout article, the full article can be found here), the likes of which this rain does not produce. However…

Not all hope for good trout fishing is lost. With the rain comes some benefits as well. When rain falls on water, it oxygenates it, which brings life back into the river and raises trout activity levels. Rain also allows for bugs to be washed into the rivers, piquing the trouts interest and making them more likely to bite. Another bonus? Rain regulates the water temperature, and adds humidity to the air which is conducive to hatch activity.