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Thread: Clinton Era Streams Act

  1. #1 Clinton Era Streams Act 
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    Search though I did, I'm unable to find info on this. Nonetheless as I recall it, 7.5 million miles of "navigable streamways" were put under it's jurisdiction. "Navigable" in the act was defined as having water flow sufficient to utilize a watercraft at least one day per year. Here's why I'm writing:

    Our property in Missouri was bisected by a year-round stream, just a creek in reality, but nonetheless beautifully unspoiled, crystal clear. It was one important "buying point" for the property. Thus we "owned" about 1 mile of the creek, known locally as "Crossville Creek". Soon after moving there, we began hearing local horror stories. Persons whose homes' location necessitated crossing the creek had been fined. State Conservation authorities had been placed under Federal control, to locate and cite offenders. One could not remove anything from the creek, rock or water.

    Many creeks were present in the area, a deeply wooded, highly undulating terrain where precipitation runoff inevitably must be carried away by the creeks. We arrived there as permanent residents in 1999. Soon, we began hearing of local resistance to policies being implemented, which were levied against both individual landowners as well as municipal entities. Seems the gravel used to maintain the great numbers of unpaved roads there, was being "mined" (the Feds' description), from the creekbeds, in violation of the "Streamways Act", as well as Federal Mining Regulations. Here we saw local government working in behalf of local citizens, and being ostracized by higher-level government.

    A long-time resident, a widowed lady, owning land with creekbed, publicly announced in the local newspaper that any municipal functions needing rock or gravel, were free to obtain it from "her creek"! We heard of alleged fines being imposed on property owners. One of the violations involved the use of "tired" vs. "non-tired" vehicles to navigate across streams: seemed you could drive a TANK across the stream, but not a common pickup truck!

    Have any Members heard of this atrocious Federal invasion of private property ownership? If you have, I will reveal more. Thanks for reading! jocular


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  3. #2  
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    We also live on a creek at our Mainland home.

    When we have had huge storms, and consequential flooding our yard wound ,up having a 45 foot high log deck of old trees.. never heard of this.


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  4. #3  
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    OK. I found this. Revisions to the Regulatory Definition of "Navigable Waters" | Emergency Management | US EPA

    This is the important bit.
    The term "navigable waters" of the United States means "navigable waters" as defined in section 502(7) of the FWPCA, and includes:
    (1) all navigable waters of the United States, as defined in judicial decisions prior to the passage of the 1972 Amendments of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, (FWPCA) (Pub. L. 92-500) also known as the Clean Water Act (CWA), and tributaries of such waters as;
    (2) interstate waters;
    (3) intrastate lakes, rivers, and streams which are utilized by interstate travelers for recreational or other purposes; and
    (4) intrastate lakes, rivers, and streams from which fish or shellfish are taken and sold in interstate commerce.
    You may be surprised to learn that I didn't track down those judicial decisions let alone the whole package of relevant legislation. Anyway, I think the sort of stream you're talking about might be included under that "tributary of" classification.

    It's important to discover under what provisions people might have been prosecuted and/or fined. It could be anything from maintaining clarity of water that feeds into a shellfish harvesting area under a regional management plan through to drought/ flood management regulations through to something mysterious that someone like me from an arid area might never think of.
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
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  5. #4  
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    A friend bought a property in north central Wisconsin. There is a stream on the property that runs in a 3 ft wide by 5 ft deep trench. The stream itself is about 2 ft wide by 6 inches deep. Before they put the highway in north of the property(circa 1910), the stream used to be the outflow of the swamp on the north side of the highway. On a 1904 map, the stream is shown as a navigable waterway. On the property is also located a natural spring, which supplies about 1/2 as much water as is flowing in the stream. One of the previous owners had dug out a series of 3 ponds fed by that spring, each with a wooden dam with removable planks.
    The friend was denied permission to build his house and shop where he wanted because of the "stream". He then removed a top plank from one of the dams, and was threatened with a fine. (It seems that the local EPA guy was all wound up now) The friend was also denied permission to lay a culvert in the stream for a driveway to the only corner of the property far enough from the above "waterways" where he could build.

    I looked at that stream and thought "Navigable? haha maybe by 5 desperate ants clinging to a toothpick".

    Fortunately, my friend had only put down a $2000 downpayment on the property. So, he kissed that 2 grand goodbye and walked away from the insanity.
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  6. #5  
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    You have an interesting contradiction here.

    Quote Originally Posted by jocular View Post
    Our property in Missouri was bisected by a year-round stream, just a creek in reality, but nonetheless beautifully unspoiled, crystal clear. It was one important "buying point" for the property.
    Great; that's true for a lot of people. They love those beautifully unspoiled, crystal clear streams and are willing to pay a lot for such unspoiled bits of nature.

    A long-time resident, a widowed lady, owning land with creekbed, publicly announced in the local newspaper that any municipal functions needing rock or gravel, were free to obtain it from "her creek"!
    Now let's say you moved onto that property, and that woman owned property just upstream from you. She started taking gravel from that creek, driving across it, putting up dams so she could have a trout pond etc. And your beautifully unspoiled crystal clear stream became a mud and debris choked stinking trickle that sometimes stopped altogether, sometimes flooded (depending on what she was doing) and started changing its course due to all the sediments it was now carrying. Would it be OK that she was doing whatever she wanted with her private property?
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  7. #6  
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    That version of the navigable waters defined by the Clean Water Act was canceled by the courts and reverted back to its original definition defined by the Corps of Engineers. Most small streams as you describe would not be considered navigable.
    Revisions to the Regulatory Definition of "Navigable Waters" | Emergency Management | US EPA That doesn't mean it's not protected though, because there are additional criteria that might be applied including designations as protected wetlands.


    The EPA guy there might be overzealous. Though oftentimes such as the situation you describe state and federal officials will often agree to changes if it improves or reverts streams back to a more natural state. It's when people just do stuff without asking that officials stop talking other than to swing a legal hammer. The old maxim about begging for forgiveness being better than permission doesn't usually work in these cases.

    (Personally I'm appalled that in this day in age, anyone would consider mining a stream bed for gravel to be a reasonable thing to do--it's akin to the old road side dumps we used to see in the country and became the shameful icons of the past (and folk legends aka "Allison's restaurant").)
    Last edited by Lynx_Fox; August 20th, 2013 at 12:57 PM.
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  8. #7  
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    Quote Originally Posted by billvon View Post
    You have an interesting contradiction here.

    Quote Originally Posted by jocular View Post
    Our property in Missouri was bisected by a year-round stream, just a creek in reality, but nonetheless beautifully unspoiled, crystal clear. It was one important "buying point" for the property.
    Great; that's true for a lot of people. They love those beautifully unspoiled, crystal clear streams and are willing to pay a lot for such unspoiled bits of nature.

    A long-time resident, a widowed lady, owning land with creekbed, publicly announced in the local newspaper that any municipal functions needing rock or gravel, were free to obtain it from "her creek"!
    Now let's say you moved onto that property, and that woman owned property just upstream from you. She started taking gravel from that creek, driving across it, putting up dams so she could have a trout pond etc. And your beautifully unspoiled crystal clear stream became a mud and debris choked stinking trickle that sometimes stopped altogether, sometimes flooded (depending on what she was doing) and started changing its course due to all the sediments it was now carrying. Would it be OK that she was doing whatever she wanted with her private property?
    This is part of why your concept of ownership is absolute nonsense.
    Deeds and Titles and such - no on owns land. Lands owns you.

    And it demonstrates that we're just way too over populated but dealing with the cause is unthinkable- so instead we must meddle in the affairs of others.

    The thing is, it's a strong argument that what you do in a river, creek or stream will directly affect others.

    But if we weren't so congested, it wouldn't be a big deal. The only actual strength in that argument is the unspoken axiom that we're packed in like sardines on the land, gobbling up its resources at an alarming rate.
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  9. #8  
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    Not sure what you are talking about Neverfly. Even under the most libertarian ideas, a landowner's rights and influence end at the property line. In the situation billvon was describing that landowner was negatively influencing his neighbor's property--therefore he did not have the right to take those actions. There is no reasonable defense for allowing a property owner to mess up his neighbors land. Congestion isn't the problem either; most fish, for example travel up and down streams in their search to spawn, seek cover from predators and find optimum forage according to the water conditions. If you muck up a stream you are effecting that stream's inhabitant, as well as human recreational activities, both up and downstream for a long distance. Blocking is just as bad.


    (At age 15, ~1975, my first act of environmental protection, was reporting a housing develop that had bulldozed fill into a trout stream--that development was stopped cold.)
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  10. #9  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    Not sure what you are talking about Neverfly.
    I was talking clearly about Over Population being the root cause.
    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    Even under the most libertarian ideas, a landowner's rights and influence end at the property line.
    Yeah, ok.
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  11. #10  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Neverfly View Post
    This is part of why your concept of ownership is absolute nonsense.
    Deeds and Titles and such - no on owns land. Lands owns you.
    If you mean that you have a responsibility to the land and the people near you - agreed.

    And it demonstrates that we're just way too over populated but dealing with the cause is unthinkable- so instead we must meddle in the affairs of others.
    This isn't a new problem. Water right legalities go back to Roman times, and most US states (that existed at the time) started passing laws on water rights around 1800. Increasing population has caused a few more problems, but far worse has been industrial uses of land that damage water rights. Mountaintop removal (for example) will decimate thousands of acres of streams and pollute adjacent waterways. Pollution in watersheds damages streams and rivers. That's why those pristine mountain streams are getting rarer and rarer and why we do more to protect them nowadays.

    Also we know more about what damages waterways today. We know that mining often increases levels of cadmium, lead, mercury etc in streams, and that even a stream that looks clean can be dangerous due to such industrial pollution. Thus we are more careful about them as well.

    Overall I think we've been doing a decent job cleaning up waterways - on average our streams and rivers are far cleaner than they were in 1960. However blanket laws intended to prevent water pollution often have unintended and annoying consequences, even if they accomplish the goal of cleaning up the river or stream. The first post in this thread lists a few of those annoying side effects.
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  12. #11  
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    Billvon, yes, agreed. But when it comes to a small creek on a small property- over population is the major problem.
    Because only large scale exploitation will present the issues discussed here.

    Do me a favor, though: Don't try to refute that with the claim that someone dropping a bottle of mercury into a creek doesn't require large scale exploitation or large populations- deliberate acts of menace like that are far more the exception.

    The Romans did have water way rights but they were more about roman Large Populations, the big cities or diverting water for preferred populations over oppressed populations. The same problem is issue there, with a congested area and thousands of people- it was Over Populated.

    The native Americans in the (now) U.S.A. managed for as long as the Romans had an empire with a very different approach.
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  13. #12  
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    Well thought-out responses, all of them! Obviously degrading the quality of a waterway is detrimental to others whose property is crossed by it, and even those simply near it. Our particular stream, creek would be my better choice of word, had headwaters about 4 or 5 miles as the stream flows from our property. It was spring-fed, which explained the year-round presence of water flow, but several other creeks, some normally dry, emptied into Crossville upstream of our property. The topography of the entire area for many miles around consisted of undulating hills, locals calling them "mountains", some being hundreds of feet high, but none, I believe, of 1000 feet. There had been plots of ground levelled here and there by early settlers, who grew mostly sorghum, but few of these plots exceeded perhaps 10 acres. Thus, farming being very limited, and today hardly carried out at all, the water quality of the creek was excellent; our neighbor's kids drank it! I would not, but it's appearance under normal flow conditions was "crystal clear". Some locals raised cattle, but most that I knew of restricted their animals' access to the creek, providing drinking water by other means, often a small channel branched off under a fence to provide a pool of water.

    An interesting facet of the argument against damming the creek was the on and off presence of beavers. Several times during our 13 years there, the workaholics most effectively dammed the creek, which crossing our property averaged perhaps 60 feet in channel width. Their use of sticks and branches, sometimes up to 3 inches in diameter, combined with large rocks and mud, intricately interlaced was absolutely amazing in it's ability to stop all but a trickle of the flow. Once, their work was at least 2 feet high or more at the center, spanning the entire water-carrying channel. My wife, having grown up living at a lake in Northern Indiana, was actively part of a local culture there called "lakers", and revelled in the 3-foot deep water behind the beaver dam! The critters are never seen in daylight, carrying out their work mainly during darkness. Disturbing either the beavers or their work was strictly illegal for residents, some of whom of course poached the animals for their fur. This never occurred on our property, as everyone around knew I was an avid target shooting enthusiast. The Missouri Department of Fish and Game had jurisdictional power to actively move beavers or discourage their work, if they deemed it necessary for some reason. Many of the "locals" despised that agency, as well as any of the law enforcement agencies present, the nickname they used for them collectively was "Conservation". Conservation workers were not armed, and thus were careful as a rule not to unduly piss off some resident (who was undoubtedly armed) and likely a 4th. or 5th. generation resident there. Enforcement was carried out with the presence of a Sheriff's Deputy.

    Short aside: Not long after moving there, an incident occurred which illustrated the fiercely loyal dedication to personal commitment. Our property was 8 miles outside of the little town of Bunker, pop. 390, so we did not witness it firsthand. The wastewater treatment area, which consisted of a pond, was accessible only by crossing the private property of a man who lived there. Several times, heavy equipment had been brought in for excavation purposes, the landowner claiming his permission was not asked for, and his access road had been ruined, turned down when seeking repair by them of the damage, he vowed to shoot any future intruding workers. Thus, the next time access was needed, the workers brought along the town's only cop. Property owner promptly shot one worker, the exact details escape me, but the cop ran for the police car, jumped in, and drove away! His claim later was that his radio did not work there, and he sought back-up. He was later relieved of his duties. The property owner took to the woods, a manhunt ensued, and he was found dead within the week, a suicide.

    The creek's "saving grace" is that after any appreciable rainfall, say 2 inches or more, it becomes a raging torrent often flowing the entire channel width and depth, which was about 8 feet. Such flow lasted perhaps a day, then tapered off, but so powerful were these frequent flood conditions that they effectively scoured rock, vegetation, small trees which had managed to grow from seed, grave, dead tree limbs, even things left by residents. A guy living about 2 miles downstream of us once came asking if it was my wheelbarrow he had found by his house, left by the creek! Relieved, it was apparent he really wanted to keep the wheelbarrow when I told him it was not mine! Regarding use of creek bed gravel, it was standard practice all around there for the Counties to use the gravel, after obtaining owner permission, for road maintenance purposes, most of the county roads being unpaved. jocular
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  14. #13 The Creek 
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    Here's one of the few pics I have of the creek.



    The mountain of useable-sized rocks I gathered over a 3-month period, during which a flood had redistributed the creekbed, revealing entirely new rock and gravel conditions. The old Bronco strained it's way back up the hill, out of the creek, more times than I care to think about, the rear filled full of rock! My way of thumbing my nose at bureaucracy. No harm in my mind was done to anyone or anything. I believe buying concrete block for building purposes instead of rock-gathering, would have involved more environmental harm, due to the manufacturer's own practices.

    The footings were 30" deep, with vertical rebar every 2 feet. Standard building practice would have placed them on 4-foot centers.




    What a start-up of a 12-inch thick reinforced rock wall looks like.




    The walls completed with a concrete bond-beam atop, 4" thick containing two 1/2" continuous rebar horizontally, a 2X8 bolted to that to allow fastening of 2X8 rafters.




    Almost done! I had no helper during construction of the structure. Working alone, the toughest part encountered was getting the center roof stringer held up in place before several rafters could be installed to support it. I did that by supporting it at one end by a vertical 2X6 bolted temporarily to the end wall, placing the other end of the stringer, which was a 2X10 twenty feet long, with supports on the top step of my 12-foot stepladder, then nailing a rafter on either side to the stringer and the top plates of the wall. With only those 2 rafters in place, I horrified my onlooking wife by hanging from the stringer with my hands, so solid did it feel, I was confident of myself; we have no picture of that ridiculous feat!

    I was 60 years old in this picture, up on the roof. jocular
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