The Supreme Court slashed wetland protections. California is trying to fill the gap.

By Camille von Kaenel | 03/18/2024 01:06 PM EDT

California state officials and lawmakers have introduced proposals to increase the state’s enforcement and oversight of wetlands protections.

The sun shines on a flooded marsh.

Wetlands reemerged in a restored floodplain at Dos Rios Ranch Preserve near Modesto, California, after a wet winter storm. Camille von Kaenel/POLITICO

SACRAMENTO, California — California officials are trying to boost state wetlands protections in order to guard against a 2023 Supreme Court decision that slashed federal oversight of wetlands.

Assemblymember Laura Friedman’s A.B. 2875 would declare it the state’s policy to ensure long-term gain and no net loss of California’s wetlands. And Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration is proposing to add 38 new positions to enforce the state’s existing wetlands protection laws and scrutinize development permits.

They’re both aimed at shoring up state law to supplant weakened federal protections following last year’s Sackett v. EPA decision, which changed the definition of federal wetlands, removing at least half of the approximately 110 million acres of wetlands in the continental U.S. from federal oversight under the Clean Water Act.


California’s Porter-Cologne Water Quality Act, which preceded the federal Clean Water Act, provides many of the same protections, though legal experts are still reviewing the exact implications of the decision. California officials are casting their proposals as a way to hold on to the state’s mantle of national leadership on environmental policy.