Dairy Group and Lawmakers Applaud Proposed Waters of the U.S. Fixes

A resolution to the much maligned Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule may have been reached by regulators which is well received news by dairymen and lawmakers.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans to update definitions for WOTUS regulations through the Clean Water Act. The proposed regulation change would exclude waters not in a six category definition.

The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) believes the updated rule will be an improvement that limits confusion for dairy producers and while reducing costs from compliance and unneeded legal fees.

“Dairy farmers have a vested interest in the outcome of this rulemaking and its potential impact on their operations,” says Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF. “We look forward to working with the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to achieve the proper clarity that dairy farmers need on WOTUS to continue to meet our shared commitment to clean water.”

The regulation change has support of politicians and other regulatory agencies, including USDA.

“When I meet with the men and women of American agriculture, one of their chief concerns is always the overreach of federal regulations. The WOTUS rule is regularly singled out as particularly egregious, as it impedes the use of their own land and stifles productivity. Farmers and ranchers are exceptional stewards of the environment, and states have their own standards as well. This welcome action from the EPA and Army Corps will help bring clarity to Clean Water Act regulations and help farmers know where federal jurisdiction begins and ends,” says Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.

“Iowa’s farmers, ranchers, manufacturers and small businesses can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that, going forward, a tire track that collects rain water won’t be regulated by the federal government. I want to thank the EPA, under Acting Administrator Wheeler’s leadership, for ensuring this WOTUS replacement rule was released quickly, and properly, to provide much-needed regulatory certainty to the people of Iowa,” says Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA).

“Clear rules and clean water – that’s what the EPA should stand for, and today’s announcement marks a hopeful new chapter for farm country. The Trump administration’s proposed definition of ‘waters of the U.S.’ is the next step to replacing the burdensome 2015 WOTUS rule and to creating streamlined and simplified rules for all landowners,” says House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway (R-TX).

The new WOTUS definition separates regulated waters into six categories:

  1. Traditional navigable waterways: Will remain federally regulated as they have since the original 1980 regulation.
  2. Tributaries to traditional navigable waterways: Only federally regulated if they contribute flow to a traditional navigable waterway in a typical year (on a 30-year basis). Ephemeral features are excluded.
  3. Ditches:
    1. Ditches that function like a traditional navigable waterway, such as the Erie Canal, will be federally regulated.
    2. Only ditches that contribute flow to a traditional navigable waterway in a typical year are regulated.
  4. Lakes and ponds: Like tributaries, they would be regulated if they contribute flow to a traditional navigable waterway in a typical year.
  5. Impoundments: Impoundments such as check dams and perennial rivers that form lakes and ponds behind them have been regulated since the 1986 regulation and will continue to be federally regulated.
  6. Adjacent wetlands: Wetlands that have a direct hydrological surface connection to another water of the U.S. in a typical year are federally regulated.

There is a still a 60-day public comment period before the proposed rule can be published by EPA.