Seven miles from his family’s cabin in southeastern Minnesota, Dean Rebuffoni can see where the creek that courses through his land begins its life. At that particular site, clear groundwater runs from a spring through a mossy glen. Hay Creek—renowned among people fishing for wild trout—originates from that spring.
Rebuffoni is a retired environmental news reporter, so he pays close attention to clean water regulations. And when he learned that the Clean Water Rule fails to protect groundwater sources like springs adequately, he agreed to become part of Earthjustice’s legal challenge.
“There’s a lot in the rule that’s very worthwhile. But to leave springs exposed to harm, well, the word ‘unconscionable’ comes to mind,” Rebuffoni says.
Rebuffoni and his wife, Catherine, own 130 acres along Hay Creek that they bought in 1990, when the land was part of a grain and dairy farm. Concerned that improper land use had caused soil erosion and water pollution in the region's rolling terrain, they wanted to ensure that their stewardship would protect and enhance the creek's water quality.
Over the past 26 years, the Rebuffonis have returned much of the land to a more natural state. They've planted more than 5,000 trees and 24 acres of native shrubs and prairie plants to buffer the creek and provide food and homes for wildlife. They’ve also worked alongside environmental groups and government agencies to create optimum trout habitat in the creek.
By restoring their land and collaborating with scientists, the Rebuffonis have learned much about interdependence in the natural world. They see no sense in regulators creating an imaginary legal boundary between waterways and the groundwater sources that create them.
“Despite all of the benefits of clean water, Hay Creek and others like it remain threatened,” says Rebuffoni. “That’s why I want to see the rule made as strong as possible.”
The Waters of the U.S. blog series tells the stories of five courageous folks working to protect their beloved local waterways and to push the federal government to strengthen the EPA’s Clean Water Rule. Released in spring 2014, the rule is meant to bolster the 1972 Clean Water Act, which has been watered down over the years by concerted attacks from special interest groups. However, the Clean Water Rule exempts vital waterways, including some springs and desert washes, and Earthjustice—with help from grassroots water warriors—is fighting in courtrooms across the country to ensure that the rule is as protective as possible.