Colorado will expand state protections for wetlands and streams


Staff member
Apr 16, 2023
Heads up to anyone who involved in wetland and stream permitting in Colorado. As discussed here, the state is currently developing a new permitting system under the Water Quality Control Act that will expand current protections for surface and groundwater. The new permitting system will expand existing protections to cover the "gap waters" created by the recent Sackett ruling, which rolled back federal protections under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. Examples of Colorado's "gap waters" include wet meadows and ephemeral headwater streams in high mountain communities throughout the state.

The new system is expected to be more comprehensive than the state's current program, ensuring that the state's water resources remain protected despite the changes at the federal level. The Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment has already released a draft dredge and fill program and aims to have a new policy by 2024.
Colorado, United States
Even though the earth contains 71 percent water, only 3 percent of total water is fresh water. This indicates how scarce is water and how serious we must be when it comes to protecting water resources. Human beings and animals depend on wetland systems, wetlands are important for biodiversity. It is a good move from Colorado to expanded its wetland and streams protection.
This is a crucial development for anyone involved in wetland and stream permitting in Colorado. The expansion of protections to cover "gap waters" is a proactive step in light of the Sackett ruling and the rollback of federal protections. Colorado's commitment to preserving its water resources is commendable, and the new permitting system's comprehensiveness is essential for safeguarding these vital ecosystems. It's reassuring to see the state taking action to ensure the continued protection of wet meadows and ephemeral headwater streams, which play a significant role in Colorado's diverse natural environment. The draft dredge and fill program and the goal to establish a new policy by 2024 demonstrate a commitment to environmental stewardship and responsible resource management.
Colorado is actively working to improve the protection of wetlands and streams within the state. With a deep understanding of the vital role these ecosystems play, Colorado is expanding its initiatives to ensure the preservation and safeguarding of these precious natural resources. This proactive approach exemplifies Colorado's strong dedication to maintaining the health and sustainability of wetlands and streams, ultimately benefiting both the environment and the people who rely on them.
I noticed this update about Colorado's effort to ensure legal protections for wetlands and streams removed from federal jurisdiction by the Sackett ruling. What's now clear is that the permitting system developed by state regulators under the state's Water Quality Control Act is only meant to serve as a stopgap measure until the state legislature is able to pass legislation that codifies a more permanent program into law. State lawmakers are now scheduled to consider the new legislation during their next session.

On a different subject, I'd like to point out this quote from the article:

“Sackett was more devastating than anyone envisioned it being,” said Alex Funk, director of water resources and senior counsel at the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Basically, if it’s not a continuously flowing stream or interstate river, it’s no longer protected.”

When it comes to perspectives on policy changes such as Sackett, it should come as no surprise that some groups don't always present accurate information when arguing their position. The above quote isn't true at all, since Sackett still requires protection of "relatively permanent waters," which includes intermittent streams that flow continuously for only short periods during the year. I don't disagree that Colorado has lost protections for many of its aquatic resources - e.g., the isolated fens discussed in the article (if they weren't already excluded under SWANCC/Rapanos, that is). Still, it's important that the situation following Sackett is accurately portrayed in articles like this one, especially in our current environment where there are new policies in the works.