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Letter: Wetlands are essential and must be protected

Wetlands are essential and must be protected

Remember those floods in Amherst and the Southern Tier? Remember the houses built on wetlands that became worthless as their basements cracked? And remember all those days Woodlawn Beach was closed? The Trump administration is trying to give us more of those. Even some of my very conservative friends will agree that President Trump’s rollback of the Clean Water Act is a terrible mistake.

New Yorkers are pushing back with an Act to Protect New York State Freshwater Wetlands.

An acre of wetland can store 1.5 million gallons of water. In a rainstorm, if that acre were built or paved over, that water would pour into our combined storm and hygienic sewers, overpower them, bypass water purification plants and pour polluted water into our streams. In a big enough storm, this unstored water overflows and we have a flood.

Wetlands hold these waters, purify them and release clean water gradually into aquifers and groundwater.

Wetlands are Mother Nature’s breeding ground. Fish spawn there. Frogs, salamanders, mink and beaver breed in them. Herons, hawks, fox and geese feed there. Flocks of migratory birds rest in them.

Wetlands are so valuable that last month the Niagara Greenway Ecological Standing Committee, with which I work, entertained $5.5 million worth of requests to restore wetlands.

Current New York law gives the DEC jurisdiction only to regulate the use of wetlands larger than 12.5 acres. Previously, federal law regulated the rest. The Trump rollback of the Clean Water Act severely limited federal regulation of wetlands. It left all those in New York State that were less than 12.5 acres without protection. That’s a huge acreage.

I have an appointment to talk to my legislators about this. Please call yours.

Larry Beahan

Conservation Chairman

Sierra Club Niagara Group

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