South Dakota Ground Zero for Trump Water Rollbacks

Washington, DC, Aug. 20, 2019 — The Mount Rushmore State will suffer devastating impacts if Trump’s plans to roll back Clean Water Act protections come to fruition, according to an eco-profile posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The overwhelming majority of South Dakota’s streams and wetlands will lose federal Clean Water Act coverage under Trump’s proposal to slash the scope of Waters of the United States (WOTUS).

South Dakota is uniquely vulnerable to Trump’s plan because 92% of its wetlands are temporary and seasonal pools known as prairie potholes. In addition, 86% of its streams are ephemeral or intermittent.  Trump’s plan would allow all the prairie potholes and ephemeral streams to be drained or filled. PEER’s analysis examines the major upshots of these losses, including –

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  • The loss of groundwater recharge from these wetlands will greatly diminish the quantity and quality of South Dakota’s drinking water which is drawn largely from groundwater;
  • The state’s flood capacity will also be significantly compromised since prairie potholes enable floodwaters to drain into the ground slowly, absorbing overflows and decreasing the severity of downstream flooding; and
  • More than half of North America’s migratory waterfowl rely on these potholes for breeding and feeding.

“Trump’s clean water retreat represents a major threat to both South Dakota’s public health and safety in addition to being an ecological disaster,” stated PEER Science Policy director Kyla Bennett, a scientist and attorney formerly with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), noting that these effects are documented by government research now being sidelined. “Like many Trump initiatives, his WOTUS rewrite represents a headlong plunge into dystopia.”

The implications for South Dakota are compounded by its eroding wetland base.  Agriculture and development have already destroyed roughly half of prairie pothole habitat, and some areas have lost as much as 90%. Continuing wetland loss in the prairie pothole region is estimated to average approximately 13,000 acres per year.

“South Dakota is already approaching an environmental tipping point and the Trump plan would, we fear, push it over the edge into a severely degraded future,” added Bennett, pointing out that the new EPA leaders have directed that benefits of preserving wetlands and peripheral streams have been stricken from official analyses.  “Now is the time for South Dakota to take stock of nature’s gifts before they are taken away.”

PEER is producing a series of profiles on what the Trump WOTUS plans will mean in different states and regions.

See the South Dakota WOTUS profile

Examine implications of the Trump WOTUS plan

Look at the WOTUS debate

View ongoing threats to the Dakotas’ Prairie Potholes Region