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Watershed pollution

In this 2013 file photo from Brummit Elementary School in Chesterton, Jen Birchfield of Save the Dunes demonstrates to local residents how area watershed pollution drains into the Little Calumet River and ultimately into Lake Michigan.

Indiana has joined a multistate lawsuit challenging an Obama administration rule that expands federal agencies' authority to protect streams, tributaries and wetlands under the Clean Water Act.

The rule is set to take effect Aug. 28.

"Waters of the United States," the term used in the EPA rule, is what Indiana Attorney Greg Zoeller and a growing number of his colleagues consider fighting words.

Small bodies of water have always been under state jurisdiction. Zoeller said putting them under federal authority would be a burden to agricultural operations that discharge water or wastewater to obtain expensive federal permits or face stiff civil penalties.

The EPA said the rule would affect only those with a "direct and significant" connection to larger bodies of water downstream that are already protected.

Question: Should the EPA regulate pollution in all navigable waterways or just large ones?

Yes: How can you argue with wanting to protect drinking water from pollution? As for damage from agricultural runoff, just look at the algae bloom in Lake Erie last year and at the mouth of the Mississippi River every year. Additional protection is needed.

No: State protection is already sufficient to ensure our drinking water is protected. Agriculture is vital to the economy, not to mention human life, and federal intervention could drive up costs, and subsequently prices. This is another example of federal government overreach.

What do you think? Vote in the web poll at, and send your letter to the editor, 150 words or less, to Be sure to include your name, city and phone number. We'd love to hear from you.


Senior Reporter

Senior reporter Doug Ross, an award-winning writer, has been covering Northwest Indiana for more than 35 years, including more than a quarter of a century at The Times.