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Environmental Protection Agency Announces New Definition for "Waters of the United States"


The Environmental Protection Agency has announced its new definition for "waters of the United States," the definition that determines the scope of the Clean Water Act's coverage.


The new definition of "waters of the United States" now applies to:

1.    territorial seas and traditional navigable waters;
2.    perennial and intermittent tributaries to those waters;
3.    certain lakes, ponds, and impoundments; and
4.    wetlands adjacent to jurisdictional waters.

This change excludes many wetlands areas that were protected under the Obama administration's rule. Proponents argue that this change will lead to new land development and economic growth. Opponents, largely environmental groups, argue that this change puts wetlands and citizens' health and safety at risk.

The EPA, in part, states that this rule change comes in light of the U.S. Supreme Court case Rapanos v. United States. The Rapanos case began in Michigan, when a landowner wanted to fill in wetlands on his property for development. The EPA tried to stop him, but the Supreme Court reversed that decision, narrowing the definition of "waters of the United States."

With this new EPA rule change, more uncertainty is likely as landowners grapple with whether their land is covered. Michigan is home to many wetlands, and this change will have serious consequences. If you think your property may be affected, contact Paul Bohn at (248) 380-0000 or online at

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