On January 23, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of the Army (Army) fulfilled yet another promise of President Trump by finalizing the Navigable Waters Protection Rule to define “waters of the United States” (WOTUS). For the first time, the agencies are streamlining the definition so that it includes four simple categories of jurisdictional waters, provides clear exclusions for many water features that traditionally have not been regulated, and defines terms in the regulatory text that have never been defined before. Congress, in the Clean Water Act, explicitly directed the Agencies to protect “navigable waters.” The Navigable Waters Protection Rule regulates these waters and the core tributary systems that provide perennial or intermittent flow into them.
The Navigable Waters Protection Rule protects the environment while respecting states, localities, tribes, and private property owners. It clearly delineates where federal regulations apply and gives state and local authorities more flexibility to determine how best to manage waters within their borders. Assertions have been made that the new rule will reduce jurisdiction over thousands of stream miles and millions of acres of wetlands. These assertions are incorrect because they are based on data that is too inaccurate and speculative to be meaningful for regulatory purposes. The final rule along with state, local, and tribal regulations and programs provide a network of protective coverage for the nation’s water resources.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today praised the rule saying, “President Trump is restoring the rule of law and empowering Americans by removing undue burdens and strangling regulations from the backs of our productive farmers, ranchers, and rural land-owners. The days are gone when the Federal Government can claim a small farm pond on private land as navigable waters,” Secretary Perdue said. “I thank President Trump and Administrator Wheeler for having the backs of our farmers, ranchers, and producers and for continuing to roll back Federal overreach. With reforms and deregulation, Americans once again have the freedom to innovate, create, and grow.”
The Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation (WyFB) also applauded today’s announcement of a new Clean Water rule that brings much-needed clarity and certainty to enforcement of the Clean Water Act. The new rule issued by the EPA and Corps of Engineers brings clarity to which level of government – federal or state – oversees dry land that is sometimes wet.
“Wyoming Farm Bureau members deeply value protecting water resources,” WyFB President Todd Fornstrom stated. “Clean water and clear rules are what we believe in. By drawing clear lines between waters of the U.S. and waters of the state, the new rule strengthens the cooperative federalism Congress envisioned and that the Supreme Court has long recognized as fundamental to the Clean Water Act.”
“The right balance between federal and state/local authority of water management provides much needed clarity and is better for the environment and the economy,” Fornstrom concluded.
U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), released the following statement, “The old WOTUS rule put Washington in control of ponds, puddles, and prairie potholes. The punishing regulation was so confusing that property owners and businesses could not determine when permits were needed. Even worse, it inserted Washington into local decision making. This overreach put unfair restrictions on how farmers, ranchers, and landowners could use their property. I will continue to work closely with the Trump administration as it seeks commonsense ways to keep America’s water clean and safe.”
North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring also applauded the rule stating, “We appreciate that exclusions are clearly defined and will allow farmers and ranchers to visually see what is and is not jurisdictional, without forcing them to hire consultants,” Goehring said. “No one loves our land and resources more than we do. We drink the water, produce the food and raise our families on the land, with an eye to the future.”
The final rule fulfills Executive Order 13788 and reflects legal precedent set by key Supreme Court cases as well as robust public outreach and engagement, including pre-proposal input and comments received on the proposed rule.
Northern Ag Network 2020
N.D. Dept. of Agriculture, U.S. Senator John Barrasso, WY Farm Bureau Federation, USDA