Washington The Clinton administration defied Congress and imposed new pollution controls Tuesday to protect thousands of lakes and streams from agricultural and industrial pollution.
"This is the single most important program we can adopt to address the remaining water pollution problems in this country," said Carol Browner, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Congressional Republicans and some farm-state Democrats, angered by what one lawmaker called an "EPA power grab," were working on strategy to block the move, but it was unlikely that the rule would be rolled back.
President Clinton called it "a critical, common-sense step to ensure clean, safe water for all Americans" and said the EPA would work "in close partnership" with states and local communities to address the problem.
Under a regulation issued by the EPA, states must develop detailed plans to reduce pollution in more than 20,000 lakes, stream segments and bays that do not now meet minimum federal water quality standards.
Browner said it is aimed at cleaning up, over 15 years, the 40 percent of the nation's waterways that are so dirty people are advised not to fish or swim in them.
The regulation, under consideration for four years, is opposed by a broad range of interests, including agriculture groups and the utility industry.
The regulation is the most ambitious attempt by the EPA to directly address the problem of waterways polluted as a result of runoff from agriculture, industrial activities, construction and other sources.
States must provide a list of polluted waterways and a cleanup schedule by April 2002, and then implement the cleanup over a 15-year period. States then must decide on the improvements.
If states do not produce the plans, the EPA may impose its own plan.