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Love the Rogue? Support the Clean Water Act

The Rogue River is why many of us love where we live. It is known throughout the country for its recreational opportunities and draws thousands to southern Oregon every year. The river connects us and our communities, providing a source of cold, clean water that supports our drinking water, a thriving tourism economy, and healthy salmon and steelhead fisheries.

Right now, the health of the Rogue and our communities that rely upon it are at risk from a proposal by the Trump administration to strip protections for categories of waters under the Clean Water Act. This proposal would leave many of the clean, cold local waterways that are crucial to the overall health of the Rogue River vulnerable to increased pressures and pollutions. Streams that flow seasonally with snowmelt and rainfall, irrigation ditches, many wetlands, and “isolated” lakes including Crater Lake would all lose protections under this devastating proposal.

In 1972, Congress passed the Clean Water Act to protect the waters of the United States by setting limits on pollution. It is the cornerstone of our nation’s environmental laws and puts in place protections for rivers like the Rogue across the country. When the Clean Water Act became law, it was interpreted to apply broadly to nearly all waters. This latest effort to undermine the Clean Water Act would allow untreated pollution into many waters without meeting the permitting and treatment standards currently required under the law.

For 215 miles, from its source at Boundary Springs near Crater Lake to the Pacific Ocean at Gold Beach, the waters of the Rogue flow through national forests, industrial timberlands, cities, and farming and ranching lands. The health of the Rogue is impacted by polluted runoff from cities and agriculture, industrial pollution, harmful logging practices, overuse and over-allocation, and climate change. Limits on pollution discharged into the streams, ditches and wetlands that flow into the Rogue under the Clean Water Act are critical to protecting a healthy river. Without these protections, the very feeders and filters of the Rogue River are left vulnerable and at risk.

These waters of the Rogue are all connected, from small headwater streams that flow seasonally with snowmelt or rainfall, to irrigation ditches that run throughout the watershed, to wetlands that filter pollutants and store floodwaters. A river system is much like the nervous system in the human body. The core of the body is only as healthy as the sum of all its parts. When a smaller part of the system is compromised, the entire system can fail. We cannot risk a failing Rogue River system from lack of Clean Water Act protections.

We all live downstream. That is why there is a broad coalition, including 20,000 aquatic scientists, Waterkeeper organizations, and thousands of people across the country who are opposing these changes. They believe, as we do, that we must defend existing laws that are based on science, health and environmental justice to protect the rivers that we love and that our communities depend on.

Rogue Riverkeeper strongly opposes the Trump administration’s proposal to undermine the Clean Water Act, leaving the waters of the Rogue, and waterways across the country, at risk and vulnerable to pollution and other threats. The Clean Water Act is at the heart of my work to protect the waters of the Rogue. We encourage everyone who cares about the Rogue’s clean water for drinking, recreation and fishing to speak up against these Clean Water Act rollbacks and submit comments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency by April 15. For the Rogue!

Robyn Janssen is the director at Rogue Riverkeeper, a locally based organization fighting to protect and restore clean water in the Rogue Basin.