In October 1997, Vice President Gore directed federal agencies to develop a Clean Water Initiative to improve and strengthen water pollution control efforts. The multiagency plan was released on Feb. 19, 1998, and identifies nearly 100 key actions. Most are existing activities, now labeled as part of the Initiative. The President's FY1999 budget requests $2.2 billion for five departments and agencies to fund implementation of the Plan. While Congress is considering appropriations bills to fund the Plan, federal agencies are beginning or accelerating activities to carry out the actions under the Plan.
Section 401 of the Clean Water Act requires that an applicant for a federal license or permit provide a certification that any discharges from the facility will comply with the Act, including water quality standard requirements. Disputes have arisen over the states' exercise of authority under Section 401. Until recently, much of the debate over the Section 401 certification issue has been between states and hydropower interests. A 1994 Supreme Court decision which upheld the states' authority in this area dismayed development and hydroelectric power interest groups. The dispute between states and industry groups was a legislative issue in the 104th Congress through an amendment to a House-passed Clean Water Act re-authorization bill; the Senate did not act on that bill.