Local Producers Tell EPA to Make WOTUS Clear, Practical

by Brett McRae

On Friday the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers held its final roundtable to gather stakeholder input on the Waters of the US rule as the Biden Administration looks to redefine what bodies of water can be federally regulated under the Clean Water Act.

This was the last of 10 roundtables held across the country and was hosted by the Wyoming Association of County Commissioners along with the Montana and Idaho Associations of Counties. Federal officials heard from local representatives testifying on the impacts of federal jurisdiction over water resources vital to production agriculture.

Raylee Honeycutt, Director of Natural Resources for the Montana Stock Growers Association told administrators that since the settlement of the west ranchers in the state have been responsible, environmentally conscious land managers in partnership with the state of Montana. 

“Many Montana cattle producers are multi-generational, and these families have dealt with every iteration of the Clean Water Act’s jurisdiction since its passage in 1972, and now after 50 years of jurisdictional tug-of-war regulated stakeholders want nothing more than a consistent act to apply.”

Honeycutt said that overbearing, unclear and inconsistent policies would have a crippling effect on Montana family ranches, businesses, and the state’s economy.

That sentiment was echoed in the testimony given by Todd Fornstrom, President of the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation, and a producer with a background in irrigated farming and feedlot operations.  

“We need to be able to walk out on our front porch and be able to tell what a water of the US is, we don’t have the excess money to hire attorneys or consultants to tell us that our ditch is a ditch and not a river.”

Both Fornstrom and Honeycutt emphasized the effectiveness of local and state management of water resources and said that practical and understandable WOTUS definitions would provide certainty and clarity for farmers and ranchers.

Courtney Briggs, Senior Director of Government Affairs with the American Farm Bureau Federation says that ag groups are frustrated with EPA’s statements on the purposes of the roundtables held with regulated stakeholders.

“One of the biggest concerns is the agencies have stated that they are not going to use these roundtables as part of the regulatory process, and it really begs the question, what is the point of these roundtables?”

Sylvia Quast, Senior Advisor to the EPA’s Administrator of Water told participants at the final roundtable that the agencies intended goal of the discussions was to hear specific ideas from stakeholders on how to improve the implementation of the clean water act and to learn about specific issues that federal rulemaking may not be the best solution for.

This fall the Supreme Court will hear the Sackett vs EPA case, that will have significant implications for the government agencies’ ability to determine what bodies of water qualify for federal jurisdiction.


Northern Ag Network

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