The Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule has been a matter of contention between agriculture and environmental groups. Buried under trade and tariffs, the WOTUS discussion has once again worked its way into our focus.
The WOTUS rule gave control of all navigable waters in the United States to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers. It allowed to these entities to control the quality of the water, drainage and maintenance. Environmental groups hailed this as a step toward improving water quality.
Agriculture groups joined several people and organizations who were concerned with what could be designated as a navigable water, what the criteria were and how much control this could give the EPA and Corps of Engineers over private lands. Ag groups argued drainage of privately owned cropland could be considered a violation of a rule and pushed for a clearer definition.
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Now we will not go into the court battles and all the history of the debates. However, current EPA administrator Scott Pruitt decided to scrap the plan and work with the Corps of Engineers to come up with a better plan. Environmental groups are afraid this step will lead to ecological damage, while farmers applaud the chance to have a clearer boundary.
After a lengthy comment period, the EPA and Corps of engineers are opening a supplemental comment period, to put a better explanation on just what the repeal of this rule is intended to do. They want to assure everybody this does not mean there will not be a rule developed, but that a rule with better definitions needs to be drafted. Something that will satisfy environmentalists and private citizens alike.
The comment period will be for 30 days after it is published in the Federal Register. You can find more information about this new proposal and a link to the 93 page document here.
If you already commented in the original 2017 comment period, you do not need to comment again. If you missed the opportunity to comment the first time, you are being encouraged to let your voice heard again. You can probably bet someone who does not agree with you, will make their voice heard.