As anticipated, the U.S. EPA announced yesterday that it would seek to alter a key Clean Water Act anti-pollution program in order to give states more flexibility in restoring their waterways. Under the revised program, states would develop and implement plans to clean up more than 20,000 dirty rivers, lakes, and estuaries. While the federal government would provide guidelines, oversight, and reviews, the proposed changes are in keeping with EPA Administrator Christie Whitman’s preference for “voluntary efforts” over mandatory regulations. Benjamin Grumbles, the EPA’s deputy assistant administrator for water, said the new approach would address the concerns of stakeholders, such as farm groups and state and local sewage-treatment agencies. But environmentalists say the changes would weaken an already iffy program that has left 44 percent of the nation’s water bodies in poor shape. The new regulations would supplant a July 2000 Clinton administration rule requiring EPA approval of state efforts to restore 300,000 miles of rivers and shorelines and 5 million acres of lakes.