NACD Wants 'Waters of the US' Proposed Rule be WithdrawnThu, 30 Oct 2014 14:39:41 CDT
The National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) submitted comments Thursday on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Proposed Rule defining "Waters of the United States" under the Clean Water Act (CWA).
"We support the mutual goal of clean water and acknowledge the successes of the Clean Water Act throughout its 40 year existence," said NACD President Earl Garber. "While we appreciate the opportunity to provide our input on the proposed rule, we are asking the EPA and Army Corps to take additional time to obtain local input for any rule making. To that end, we are requesting that the current version of the rule be withdrawn."
In its comments, NACD expressed concerns and requested additional clarification on the following definitions: tributaries, adjacency, other waters, and significant nexus. As drafted, the proposed rule would substantially expand CWA jurisdiction, granting EPA and USACE broad authority and discretion to regulate wetlands and other water bodies remote from traditionally navigable waters.
By policy, NACD opposes any measure that expands jurisdiction of the CWA. After completing an economic analysis , EPA and USACE have estimated the rule would result in a three-percent increase in CWA jurisdiction. The amount of expansion is difficult to predict with any meaningful precision; however, if the rule were to encompass all adjacent waters and most isolated wetlands and ditches, NACD estimates it would be significantly greater than three-percent. Regardless, even a three-percent increase in jurisdictional areas would be significant, considering the total number of acres affected and the associated potential economic impacts.
While EPA's efforts to preserve the agricultural exemptions are critical and well-intentioned, the combined effect of the expansion of jurisdiction and the framework to implement the agricultural exemptions creates a number of legal uncertainties and risks.
NACD supports the decisions of the Supreme Court to leave the management of non-navigable waters in the hands of landowners and local governments. For more than 75 years, conservation districts have been leaders in locally-led efforts to ensure a clean and sustainable water supply for the nation. With earned trust and a proven ability to form partnerships at the local level, conservation districts are well positioned to play a key role in addressing water quality challenges in local communities.
"It is our philosophy that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," said Garber. "Less-costly preventative measures are being implemented on the ground every day due to voluntary and incentive-based conservation practices."
An expansion of CWA jurisdiction would take away from the current voluntary approach to conservation, which promotes collaboration in a large-scale manner. Any attempt to clarify CWA jurisdiction should be subject to local input, in order to develop effective parameters, criteria, and standards that successfully meet specific local needs. No final ruling should be employed until EPA and USACE have successfully vetted and approved clear provisions that are predictable when applied on the local level.
NACD's full comments can be found online by clicking here.
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