Mass Rivers, together with the Ipswich River Watershed Association, and the Parker River Clean Water Association, jointly notified the EPA on July 17 of our intent to sue the agency under the Clean Water Act.
The purpose of this legal action is to compel the EPA to require meaningful streamflow protection in Massachusetts. The Notice of Intent (NOI) asserts that MassDEP's implementation of the state's Water Management Act (WMA), according to a set of 2014 regulatory changes following an EOEEA-led process known as the Sustainable Management Initiative, or "SWMI"; does not follow sound science, and is allowing the degradation of the state's waters. The 2014 regulations and the state's implementation of them violate the federal Clean Water Act by failing to protect stream flow. Without water in rivers and streams, there can be no water quality at all. As the NOI says, stream flow is "foundational" to every kind of water quality - physical, biological, and chemical. The US Supreme Court has also held, in its 1994 decision, PUD No. 1 of Jefferson County v. Washington Department of Ecology, that water quantity and quality are inextricably linked.
Photo: Ipswich River
The reason this litigation is directed at the EPA is that the EPA must review and approve water quality standards, and although the WMA regulations are not labeled "water quality standards," they function as such. The EPA recognized this in a similar case in South Carolina, where they found nearly identical regulations in that state to violate the Clean Water Act. While the Water Management Act and its regulations are complicated, the problem with them is not - the regulations allow too much water to be withdrawn, at the wrong times of year, from the wrong places, for our rivers, streams and the wildlife who depend on them, to survive and thrive. As with many environmental problems, this will only worsen with climate change if we don't fix it. We can do better.
We are happy to answer questions about this litigation. You can read the full text of the NOI