Rule Provides Clearer Definition of 'Waters of the United States'

US - In a final rule released today, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Army Corps of Engineers revised its definition of "waters of the United States" (WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act.
calendar icon 24 January 2020
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Earlier definitions of WOTUS were considered too vague and subject to interpretation, leading several administrations to push for greater clarity.

Under the Trump administration’s rule, known as the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, federal protections will be limited to territorial seas and certain lakes and ponds, as well as major rivers, their primary tributaries, and wetlands along their banks. All other waterways, including ephemeral streams, will fall under state jurisdiction.

National Farmers Union (NFU) has long supported greater clarification of WOTUS and was encouraged by the administration’s efforts do so. In a statement, NFU President Roger Johnson expressed appreciation and urged the administration to ensure the availability of clean water for future generations.

Mr Johnson said: "Family farmers and ranchers have been confused by ambiguous water regulations for many years. Now that we have a more precise definition of WOTUS, we hope that farmers will better understand which kinds of water are subject to federal authority and which are not.

"But farmers don’t just need greater clarity – they also need access to clean, safe water for their families, their farms, and their communities. These needs are not mutually exclusive; when regulating natural resources, EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers must balance certainty for farmers, ranchers, and property owners with protections for our water supply.

"And while Farmers Union policy generally supports local decision-making, some states may be unprepared to regulate significantly more waterways. Moving forward, we will review the final rule closely to assess its full impacts on family farmers and ranchers and rural communities."

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