Given the federal government’s efforts to redefine and roll back clean water protections, New York needs to bolster our efforts to protect the streams that serve a critical role in the health of our rivers, watersheds, and downstream communities. This bill adds class C streams to the list of protected streams under the Protection of Waters Regulatory Program within the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.
New York’s freshwater resources provide us with abundant drinking water supplies and support agriculture, industry, and recreational opportunities. Healthy streams protect against flooding, filter harmful pollutants, provide flow for surface waters, and recharge groundwater aquifers. New York established the Protection of Waters Regulatory Program to prevent undesirable activities from harming these waterways.
All waters of the state are assigned a class based on existing or expected usage. Class AA or A are given to waters that are used as drinking water sources; class B to waters that are used for swimming and contact recreation; class C to waters supporting fisheries and non-contact recreation; and class D to waters supporting fishing but not fish propagation. Classifications with (T) support trout populations and (TS) support trout spawning. Currently, only AA, A, B streams and those supporting trout populations or trout spawning are afforded protections under this program. Small ponds and lakes with a surface area of 10 acres or less, located within the course of a stream, are also subject to protection. Permits on protected streams are required for certain activities such as stream bank or bed disturbance, construction or repair of dams, and construction or expansion of docking structures. Adding the C streams to the protected status ensures that more of our clean water in New York State is protected.
At a time when the Trump administration is finalizing a rollback of the Obama-era Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule to decrease the protections of waterways under the Clean Water Act, New York needs to stand strong by protecting thousands of miles of streams that serve as critical arteries throughout the state.
This bill amends New York’s Environmental Conservation Law to include class C streams in the list of protected streams under the Protection of Waters Regulatory Program within the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.