Updates & Reviews

Jun 16, 2016 — by: Family Farm Alliance


June 16, 2016

(Washington, D.C.) - The Family Farm Alliance (Alliance) earlier today expressed "grave concerns" and questioned the practical applicability of a recent draft streamflow report prepared by federal agencies. The Alliance transmitted a detailed formal comment letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the United States Geological Survey (USGS), who earlier this year released Draft Technical Report: Protecting Aquatic Life from Effects of Hydrologic Alteration.

The Draft Report describes the relationship between hydrologic condition and water quality, and gives examples of what states have done to address flow concerns using current Clean Water Act (CWA) authorities. It emphasizes that alterations to the natural flow regime can contribute to the degradation of biological communities and can prevent water bodies from supporting aquatic life designated uses defined by state water quality standards. 

"We have very serious concerns about the Draft Report’s constructive applicability, especially in the Western United States," said Alliance Executive Director Dan Keppen. "While our comment letter acknowledges that there are some positive aspects of the Draft Report, our concerns far outweigh those supportive observations."

Key concerns were identified in the Alliance's formal comment letter, which found that the Draft Report:

  • Fails to acknowledge that well-settled legislative and judicial authority has long recognized state and local government control over land and water use and development;

  • Is built upon the “natural flow regime” philosophy and presents a false impression that this term is linked in the Clean Water Act to the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters;

  • Applies an outsized and sometimes unrealistic bias in its treatment of human activities, especially those involving agriculture and dam construction; and

  • Ignores or downplays naturally-occurring circumstances that can increase the duration and frequency of high flows or contribute to frequent low-flow conditions. Instead, the report emphasizes that human activities are the primary reason why flow characteristics are changing throughout the United States;

The Alliance is concerned that the combination of these concerns and the agencies’ advocacy of legal strategies in the draft report could embolden some regulators and special interest groups to seek flow requirements on water projects even if doing so has no support in federal or state law.

"Our members believe the draft report relies heavily on concepts, rather than real science," said Mr. Keppen. "This, coupled with an apparent lack of consultation with the Western agricultural community during the draft report’s preparation, translates into a document that has limited, if not flawed applicability."

Click here for the Alliance's comment letter.

Click here and here for supporting figures.