Ohio could soon pass bill to deregulate development of ephemeral water streams

The Ohio legislature could soon pass a bill allowing for deregulating the development of “ephemeral streams” — natural flows of water that form after rain and snowmelt.

Ohio has an estimated 115,000 miles of primary headwater streams, according to legislative testimony from Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Director Laurie Stevenson, referring to the brooks and ravines that are the origin of most rivers. Of them, an estimated 36,400 miles are ephemeral streams. They channel water into larger streams and can filter out contaminants like nitrogen and phosphorus.

Current state law requires a permit to discharge, dredge or fill material into any ephemeral feature, according to analysis from the Legislative Service Commission. Environmentalists say this permit, which is sometimes paired with required environmental mitigation, is a key means to protect larger bodies of water that catch ephemeral flow.

Legislation passed by the House would eliminate this permitting and mitigation requirement, explicitly removing ephemeral features from regulation under Ohio water pollution control laws. An amended version the Senate passed Wednesday would essentially only allow the state to regulate ephemeral streams if they’re covered by the federal Clean Water Act.

The federal issue has been ping-ponged between presidential administrations. Then-President Donald Trump’s U.S. EPA reversed rules imposed by his predecessor, Barack Obama, that applied Clean Water Act protections to ephemeral streams. However, a federal court in Arizona vacated the Trump-era rule in August, which reverts the permitting process to a case-by-case review to determine if the ephemeral stream has a “significant nexus” to more traditional bodies of water. The EPA under current President Joe Biden is in the process of changing the rule once again.

Read more, at: https://www.news5cleveland.com/news/state/ohio-could-soon-pass-bill-to-deregulate-development-of-ephemeral-water-streams

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