Keep Clean Water Clean

Our cleanest waters deserve extra protection to keep them that way. That’s what the “Antidegradation” provisions of federal clean water laws require states like Kentucky to do — identify rivers and streams that are clean and develop policies and plans to preserve that.

As recently as 2001, less than 2% of Kentucky’s cleanest waters were protected from further pollution under these federal rules. What’s worse, state rules were riddled with loopholes that developers and polluters could use to avoid their responsibilities to our families.

We’ve come a long way since then, and KWA is proud to be part of Kentucky’s strong push to protect our cleanest waters. We’ve ensured that more than 90% of our streams, rivers, and wetlands are better protected, and there are fewer loopholes and exemptions.

Here’s how we did it: Working together with allies like Kentuckians For The Commonwealth and the Cumberland Council of the Sierra Club, we represented families like yours in negotiations with the state and industry.

It’s hard work. We spent long days at the bargaining table, writing and rewriting regulatory language, where just a few words can spell the difference between fair rules that really work and those that don’t. When we had to, we took our case to court – either the court of law or the court of public opinion via the media.

Although we’ve accomplished much, this important work is far from over. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is now reviewing Kentucky’s program. If the EPA accepts, we’ll turn our attention to making sure the state enforces it fairly. We’ll examine incoming permit applications and decisions, making sure that the Kentucky environmental agencies are holding polluters accountable to their responsibilities, no matter how many campaign contributions they have made.

And if the EPA decides that Kentucky’s rules don’t do enough to keep our clean waters clean, then we’ll be back at the negotiating table for the rewrite.

These antidegradation rules are an important tool for Kentucky Waterways Alliance and our partners who are working to preserve the streams and rivers we all love. We are almost at the finish line and we need your help to get across it!

Grant funding for this work has gotten harder to come by, and we are particularly grateful for your financial support at this time.  Learn more about how you can make a gift to support Kentucky Waterways Alliance and our work to keep our cleanest waters clean now and into the future.

So, what exactly is this antidegredation concept?

River Network provides us with an interview of KWA ED, Judy Petersen.

What motivated Kentucky Waterways Alliance to advocate for strong antidegradation policy?
Judy describes the history behind the very important Kentucky Waterways Alliance antidegradation case, and the basics of what the case established for all of us advocating to keep healthy rivers, lakes and wetlands healthy.

What did the Kentucky Waterways case say about allowing piecemeal degradation of our waters?
One of the most important things to come out of the Kentucky case was limitations on the idea that states could allow nearly unlimited “de minimus” or piecemeal degradation of water quality without applying antidegradation review requirements. Judy explains how her case changed the reality for you.

Antidegradation is….errrrrr, kind of wonky. How do you talk with the public about it?
Judy shares her ideas for how to take what can be a dry and legalistic topic and turn it into something your members, the media, and the public can understand and support.

What comes next in Kentucky when it comes to antidegradation?
Wrapping up a lawsuit — even a very successful one — is never the end of the work, but rather the beginning. Judy explains how Kentucky Waterways Alliance is making sure the new policies are well-implemented, and how their addressing new and tough antidegradation issues, such as applying the policy to general permits.

What advice would you give to a new river advocate?
Judy boils it down: Don’t try to do it all. Find someone to share victories with…and to cry with. Reach out to others through River Network (shameless but happy self-promotion!).

What’s your favorite victory?
Need a little cheering up? Hearing about victories is always cheerful, and Judy’s personally favorite victory is a great testament to the power of citizen involvement in the Clean Water Act.