BY DONNA WESTFALL
CREDIT TO KATE CAMPELL, ASSISTANT EDITOR OF AG ALERT
Proposed modifications to the 40 year old Federal Clean Water Act have farmers/ranchers and others throughout the nation on high alert. The US EPA has issued a proposed rule that includes redefining what “waters of the US” means.
It attempts to clarify which streams, wetlands, and other waters are considered “waters of the US,” and therefore subject to permitting requirements under the Clean Water Act.
Why is this such a serious concern for fathers and ranches?
By expanding the scope of waters deemed jurisdictional under the Clean Water Act, increased enforcement is inevitable says Kari Fisher, California Farm Bureau Federation, associate counsel. “A Clean Water Act violation can carry a fine of as much as $37,000 a day.”
* All “tributaries” of jurisdictional waters, and all waters located within a riparian area or a floodplain, which have historically been subject to case-by-case determinations. A tributary, including wetlands, can be natural, man-altered or man-made, and includes waters such as rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, impoundments, canals and ditches.
* Certain “other” waters deemed to have a “significant nexus” to jurisdictional waters. What exactly would be included in the “other” waters category remains unclear.
* “Potential impacts could also include requiring more permits, mitigation and agency monitoring,” Fisher said. “When landowners acquire a Clean Water Act permit, they are more likely to trigger the need for other types of federal actions, such as Endangered Species Act, National Envir0nmental Policy Act or National Historic Preservation Act consultations.”
Two recent US Supreme Court decisions on jurisdiction have clearly stated there are limits to federal authority.
More red tape if this goes through. Individual Farm Bureau members as well as others are encouraged to prepare and submit their own concerns during the public comment period. Once the EPA’s 370 pages are published in the Federal Register, the public will have a 90-day period to comment.