Explaining the New U.S. Navigable Waters Protection Rule

Explaining the New U.S. Navigable Waters Protection Rule


[Atlanta, GA / Damon Jones – Reporting]
Ever since the 2015 WOTUS ruling, the agricultural community has been concerned that the definition
of navigable waters protected by the federal government was both overreaching and vague. However, that has now been repelled by the
newly passed Navigable Waters Protection Rule, which clearly outlines what bodies of water
fall under the Clean Water Act. [Mary Walker – EPA Region 4 Administrator]
We set up four very clear categories of water. So, traditional, navigable waters in the territorial
seas, tributaries of those that flow more than in just response to rainfalls, so, like
Peachtree Creek here in Atlanta that feeds the Chattahoochee. The third category are, I guess, we call them
our round waters, lakes and impoundments of jurisdictional waters that contribute flows
to jurisdictional waters, and finally wetlands that are adjacent to jurisdictional waters. Your farm pond constructed in upland is not. [Damon]
While this new ruling will roll back some of the regulations, EPA wants to make it clear
that the environment will still be well protected. [Mary]
I think the ruling is very clearly tied to the language of the Clean Water Act. The language, the words in the Clean Water
Act when we talk about Waters of the US are navigable waters. And so, this rule protects our navigable waters
and the underlying premise for each of those categories is that there is a clear tie to
navigability. These are key waters that fed our nation’s
navigable waters. [Damon]
This ruling is good news for farmers and ranchers on a number of different fronts. Not only does it narrow the federal oversight,
but it also gives them some clarity heading into the future. [Gary Black – GA Commissioner of Agriculture]
It still protects the environment. It still provides leadership in that area,
but still provides a reasonable and sound policy for the people that produce the food
and fiber for all of us. Being good stewards of the land as they always
are. We now have got some real, defined areas of
where navigable waters are. We can promote a policy that landowners, farmers,
foresters, ranchers, all across this country can finally understand. [Damon]
The new rule will also improve the process of federal permitting by clearly defining
requirements, which should ease the regulatory process. That’s a far cry from previous years where
farmers and ranchers had to spend an inordinate amount of time and money getting approval
from the EPA. [Mary]
For a great deal of time, particularly in the wake of the 2015 rule, just a real difficulty
understanding where federal law applies. If you wanted to do something on your land,
do you need a federal permit and the cost that entails. And so, very often, folks would have to retain
lawyers, consultants, hydrologists to tell them what they could do on their land. And so, this provides a clear definition that
is understandable and tie to the law so that folks know what they can do with their land
and they can use their land as they see fit within the confines of the law. [Damon]
This new ruling will go into effect 60 days after it is entered into the Federal Register. Reporting from Atlanta, I’m Damon Jones for
the Farm Monitor.

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