The Clean Water Act wherein the US regulates all navigable waters in the United States. That law and regulations have HELPED "the people" (rivers used to, literally, catch on fire...none do anymore) and the powers that be (e.g., corporations) have NOT benefited from it--and have, in fact, paid tons of money over the decades.
I would concede that one on the basis of what you've said and the fact that I've never had reason to learn more about it beyond dealing with the bureaucracies involved with it.
What I've learned from dealing with the people who administer the Clean Water Act is enough to make anyone sneer at the thought of them.
In 2009 a good friend was fighting to preserve a certifiably ancient body of water in Montgomery, Alabama that had been surrounded on 70& of its shore by a city owned golf course some 20 years earlier. Run off from turf chemicals produced algae blooms that matted the top of the lagoon from early spring into winter. The introduction of four species of invasive aquatic weeds had slowed water flow to the point it had shallowed from up to twelve feet down to four.
Another weed, Alternanthera philoxeroides that grows from the shore out into the water up to 30 feet a year has roots that hang in the water and collect any and all detritus and refuse. Over the years Alternanthera had shrunk the shoreline by as much as 12 feet and added another 15 feet of "muck" up to the surface of the lagoon.
My friend began to talk with the city officials about it and received the expected runaround. Through employees of the city he found out a completely different story.
Originally the lagoon had been administered by the city and the Alabama Department of conservation. The city ended the agreement with ADC and was told then by them of the extensive efforts that would be needed to restore and maintain the water. At the top of the list was that the lagoon had to be dredged to remove the years of sediment that had accumulated. Second on the list was a yearly program for aquatic weed control.
The city applied for a permit to dredge then decided not to. Their official version was they could find no one to do the job. My friend met and talked to a dredging company that had in fact bid on it and was given names of other companies who had.
When confronted with this the city went on a personal attack aimed at him, his employer and anyone associated with him. He went to the the EPA's puppet organization, Alabama Department of Environmental Management who sent investigators THAT SAME DAY to photograph he destruction of the water. The next morning they told him there was nothing they could do until their report was finalized and published and estimated at most three weeks.
Also he asked them to do water samples or direct him to a lab that could. They said they would do samples the next time they tested "that basin." But ADEM could not tell him the last time they tested that basin or the next time they would.
He found out from ADC about schedules for basins. They do water quality testings not on actual sites but over 200 miles down river in Mobile Bay every FIFTEEN YEARS. The dayes of the water samplings and the location for them both coincide with ADEM's annual "seminars" at a resort on the river. The next water samples for the basin were due for 2015. By this time the ADEM report was past due by several months.
He went to EPA and Army Corps of engineers. EPA said they'd relinquished all matters concerning water to ADEM. Army Corps of Engineers said they had no authority. He went to local television and newspapers. The newspapers did nothing. One television ran a sory about it that prompted the city to mow the non golf course area and use prison labor to pick up trash. The next time on a visit to the lagoon my friend was arrested for trespassing in a PUBLIC park and excoriated in the news for being homosexual. He left his home of fifty years and moved 1500 miles to start fresh.
Shortly after that ADEM relinquished water quality back to EPA. Nothing has been done. However the invasive aquatic weeds from it have spread down the Alabama River all the way to Mobile Bay. So has the trash from the softball fields, golf courses and concession stands. The day I went there to visit we counted over 100 decaying softballs floating in the weeds.
I just did google map for an ariel view by searching for "Lagoon Park Montgomery Alabama." The lagoon looks small but at its widest points its well over 170 yards and 50 yards at its narrowest. You can see the distinct lines along the shoreline where Alternanthera is extending out. There are islands of sediment that have formed upstream (to the south)