Today, the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers replaced the 2015 Waters of the United States (WOTUS) regulation with a new Clean Water rule that brings much-needed clarity and certainty to enforcement of the Clean Water Act. The rule provides a new, clear definition for “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) — delivering on President Trump’s promise to finalize a revised definition for “waters of the United States” that protects the nation’s navigable waters from pollution and will result in economic growth across the country.
The revised definition identifies four clear categories of waters that are federally regulated under the Clean Water Act: the territorial seas and traditional navigable waters; perennial and intermittent tributaries; certain lakes, ponds, and impoundments; and wetlands that are adjacent to jurisdictional waters. This final action also details what waters are not subject to federal control, including features that only contain water in direct response to rainfall; groundwater; many ditches, including most farm and roadside ditches; prior converted cropland; farm and stock watering ponds; and waste treatment systems.
Farm groups across the industry applauded the news.
“Today’s announcement is welcome news to America’s wheat producers who’ve dealt with years of regulatory uncertainty,” said National Association of Wheat Growers President and Lavon, TX, farmer Ben Scholz. “Farmers are dependent on protecting our natural resources for safe and reliable water to grow crops and for the communities that farmers are a part of. To do so, we need regulatory certainty and clarity as well as a commonsense framework for how the rules will work. Wheat growers are pleased the Trump Administration has made this announcement and looking forward to diving into the details.”
This final rule follows an initial proposed rule from December 2018 that NAWG supported. Throughout this process, U.S. farmers have continued to press for regulatory clarity and a framework that focused on waters that are truly navigable in nature.
Robert McKnight Jr., president of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association said, “Five years ago, cattle producers and property owners across the country were saddled with an overly broad and ambiguous Waters of the United States, or WOTUS, rule. The 2015 law gave the federal government unprecedented control over vast tracts of private property and was embroiled in legal trouble since its inception.
“We are pleased with the announcement that the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers have finalized a rule that is easier to understand and narrower in scope. Cattle producers have always been the best stewards of their land, and this new rule will go a long way towards allowing them to maintain that stewardship and control over their private property.”
American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said, “Farmers and ranchers care about clean water and preserving the land, which are essential to producing healthy food and fiber and ensuring future generations can do the same. That’s why we support the new clean water rule. It provides clarity and certainty, allowing farmers to understand water regulations without having to hire teams of consultants and lawyers. We appreciate the commitment of the agencies involved and this administration to crafting a new regulation that achieves important regulatory oversight while allowing farmers to farm. Clean water, clear rules.”