In what has been described as a win for agricultural interests and rural landowners, the House of Representatives last week refused to include an amendment to the House Energy and Water Appropriations bill that would have allowed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to expand the Clean Water Act enforcement onto private lands not connected to “navigable” water.
The Clean Water Act gives the federal government the authority to regulate the navigable waters of the United States. But House and Senate legislation to support reported Obama administration desire for expanding the act’s definition of waters regulated to all waters, including those on private property, were previously introduced.
An amendment to the House Energy and Water Appropriations bill was offered by Reps. Jim Moran (D-Va.) and John Dingell (D-Mich.) that would have allowed implementation of new Corps’ guidance language, “which would have clarified the use of the Clean Water Act in certain situations, including how it would be administered in cases impacting small headwater streams and important wetlands,” claimed the Trout Unlimited organization in a news release.
Voting against the language in the bill made sure the Administration doesn’t assert federal jurisdiction over “every last drop of water, intruding on individual/property rights, by regulating prairie potholes, drainage ditches, rain gutters, and the like,” contended Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.).
Trout Unlimited tried to twist defeat of expanding the Clean Water Act regulation as being against wildlife habitat, fishermen and hunters. Almost all rural landowners are hunters and/or fishermen, and it isn’t logical that these members of Trout Unlimited would support statements about the bill amendment defeat.
Steve Moyer, Trout Unlimited’s vice president of government affairs, said, “The Clean Water Act is one of the most important conservation tools available to help protect the health of our rivers and streams and the fish and game that depend on healthy watersheds. Without the practical, science-based guidance direction from the Corps of Engineers to on-the-ground practitioners, it’s much more difficult to ensure our clean water and healthy habitat stays that way.
“There’s a direct connection between clean water and our opportunity to hunt and fish—our fish and game need clean water above all else…You can’t have fishable waters if substantial numbers of wetlands and headwater streams go unprotected by the Clean Water Act.”
Trout Unlimited provided no examples of waters becoming polluted because the Clean Water Act reach in recent years hasn’t been expanded to that of private property.
The Agricultural Retailers Association membership has keen interest, along with others in the agricultural community, to keep the Corp of Engineers and federal regulatory authorities from moving forward unilaterally to reverse decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court that has previously limited provisions of the Clean Water Act.