Wetlands Coverage of the Clean Water Act (CWA): 'Rapanos' and Beyond [September 3, 2014] [open pdf - 505KB]
From the report summary: "In 1985 and 2001, the Supreme Court grappled with issues as to the geographic scope of the wetlands permitting program in the federal Clean Water Act (CWA). In 2006, the Supreme Court rendered a third decision, 'Rapanos v. United States', on appeal from two Sixth Circuit rulings. The Sixth Circuit rulings offered the Court a chance to clarify the reach of CWA jurisdiction over wetlands adjacent only to 'non'navigable tributaries of traditional navigable waters--including tributaries such as drainage ditches and canals that may flow intermittently. (Jurisdiction over wetlands adjacent to traditional navigable waters was established in the 1985 decision.) [...] While regulators and the regulated community debate the legal dimensions of federal jurisdiction under the CWA, scientists contend that there are no discrete, scientifically supportable boundaries or criteria along the continuum of wetlands to separate them into meaningful ecological or hydrological compartments. Wetland scientists believe that all such waters are critical for protecting the integrity of waters, habitat, and wildlife downstream. Changes in the limits of federal jurisdiction highlight the role of states in protecting waters not addressed by federal law. From the states' perspective, federal programs provide a baseline for consistent, minimum standards to regulate wetlands and other waters. Most states are either reluctant or unable to take independent steps to protect non-jurisdictional waters through legislative or administrative action."
CRS Report for Congress, RL33263
The National Agricultural Law Center: http://www.nationalaglawcenter.org/