Scott Pruitt, President Donald Trump's pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has discussed eliminating what he describes as "unnecessary EPA regulations." Consequently, government officials and land developers across the country are bracing for changes in federal environmental laws, including the federal Clean Water Act, which could shift much of the regulatory burden relating to clean water and wetlands preservation to the states.
In California, many regulatory agencies, including the State Water Resources Control Board (Water Board) and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), have already engaged in discussions about how to shore up their regulatory activities to protect water quality and the integrity of wetlands across the state. Among other recent actions, the Water Board has proposed higher freshwater flow targets for the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, which, if enacted, could help prevent further damage to affected ecosystems and ensure maintenance of current fresh water quality standards. The Water Board and CDFW also have begun discussions with stakeholders, including California Native American tribes, concerning the protection of water quality from the discharges that result from suction dredge mining, a process that extracts minerals from river and stream beds.
Meanwhile, land developers are positioning themselves to navigate the anticipated federal-to-state regulatory transition. According to Doug Praw, partner in Holland & Knight's West Coast Real Estate Group, the primary concern expressed by his developer clients is the current uncertainty.
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