U.S. EPA proposal would expand Clean Water Act

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has farmers, ranchers, and landowners across the country upset about a potential expansion in their authority. The “waters of the U.S.” rule proposes a change to the definition of that term—waters of the United States. Where the Clean Water Act has previously defined those waters as those that are navigable or are significantly connected to navigable waters, the proposed rule would include smaller waters and even some dry land in the definition of “waters of the U.S.”
As a result, permit requirements that apply to navigable waters would also apply to ditches, small ponds, and even depressions in fields and pastures that are only wet when there is heavy rain. If landowners could not get permits to do things like build fences and use pesticides to control bugs and weeds—something that would be far from guaranteed—farming and ranching would be much more costly and difficult. Other landowners, too, would face roadblocks to things they want to do, such as build a house or plant trees. American Farm Bureau and California Farm Bureau are both calling on Congress to prevent this expansion.
According to the American Farm Bureau’s www.ditchtherule.fb.org website, “It is clear from the language of the Clean Water Act that Congress did not intend for the law to extend federal regulations to such small, remote waters and land features; otherwise, Congress would not have used the term ‘navigable’. Under the proposed rule, nearly every drop of water that falls would be regulated by the federal government—the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.”

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