In summary

In what is becoming a standard call-and-response rejoinder, a California water agency is considering rules to protect state wetlands after the Trump administration said it would do away with Obama-era regulations.

In what is becoming a standard call-and-response rejoinder, a California water agency is considering rules to protect state wetlands after the Trump administration said it would do away with Obama-era regulations.

California may change regulations to make it more difficult to develop around wetlands. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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The state Water Resources Control Board could adopt polices that provide protection for wetlands and waters formerly considered under the Waters of the United States regulations, which have been criticized as hampering farming and commercial development. Trump announced the rollback of the rules last month.

At issue are protections for rivers, streams and sometimes seasonal bodies of water that are covered under the federal Clean Water Act. Supreme Court decisions limited the definition to ‘navigable waters’ directly connected to rivers.

That narrow definition, environmentalists said, left out wetlands and other small bodies of water that only appeared at certain times of the year but provided critical habitat. In 2015 the Obama administration expanded the rule to protect those wetlands, once again curtailing some agriculture operations and other development.

Business interests and property-rights advocates argued that if the state adopted the more restrictive rules, it would damage the California economy by forbidding development in a broad swath of the state. That point was underscored when a Central Valley farmer was fined nearly $3 million for plowing under vernal pools without the proper permit.

The water board could rule on the matter in December.

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Julie Cart joined CalMatters as a projects and environment reporter in 2016 after a long career at the Los Angeles Times, where she held many positions: sportswriter, national correspondent and environment...