Translation: Everything is connected to everything.
Wetlands are critical and have, the report says, "Bidirectional hydrologic exchanges with streams or rivers…"
Wetlands that lack "bidirectional hydrologic exchanges" include prairie potholes, vernal pools, and playa lakes. These wetlands include the storage of flood water, retention and transformation of nutrients, metals, and pesticides. The report refers to these wetlands as "unidirectional wetlands" but affect the condition of downstream waters if there is subsurface water connection.
Even if there is not a subsurface water connection, the wetlands are generally on a gradient of connectivity which suggests there may be an effect on downstream waters. (It is surprising to some that water does run downhill.)
So, farm, ranch, timber, and other property owners: get ready to learn a new definition of "connectivity."
The report defines connectivity "…as the degree to which components of a system are joined, or connected, by various transport mechanisms."
"Connectivity" is determined by the characteristics of both the physical landscape and the biota of the specific system.
EPA's experts basically claim that even if there is no stream or wetland, currently carrying or holding water and serving an actual function it has the "potential" to provide an environmentally beneficial result when any fluid material enters it then environmental conditions change. As stated, "Potential functions play a critical role in protecting those waters from future impacts."
Farm and ranch organizations are correct in being outraged at this grab for power by EPA bureaucrats. This study and presumably the proposed regulations give private homeowners, farmers, energy producers, loggers, manufacturers, miners, and state governments an idea as to how EPA is going to run roughshod over your interests and property rights with "connectivity."
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