IFB testifies in support of Clean Water Rule

Proposed rule establishes six categories considered "waters of the United States." IFB comments also urge several exclusions from the rule.

Farmers can participate in the Clean Water Rule comment period by texting "WATERS" to 52886 before April 15. (Illinois Farm Bureau file photo)

By Deana Stroisch

Illinois Farm Bureau this week joined ag associations and business groups across the country in support of the Clean Water Rule.

More than 100 peopled trekked to testify in Kansas City during a two-day public hearing held by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers. The agencies sought public comment on a proposed rule that redefines what waters fall under federal jurisdiction.

Environmental groups, such as the Sierra Club, Wildlife Federation and River Keepers, referred to the proposal as the “Dirty Water Rule” and claimed the proposal will compromise drinking water and public health.

State Farm Bureaus, including Illinois, Colorado, Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska, applauded the agencies for taking steps to clarify their role in the Clean Water Act.

Lauren Lurkins, IFB’s director of environmental and natural resources, explained the “real-life bureaucratic nightmare” that plays out in Illinois. Farmers, she said, often receive three different federal agency opinions, “all while the farmer simply wants to take action on their own land in the name of conservation.”

“We appreciate the science reflected in the proposal, but also appreciate that the science is taken into context with statutory authority, legislative intent, Supreme Court interpretations and the agencies’ respect for the traditional powers of the states to regulate land and water resources,” she said.

Related: Read Lurkins’ full comments at this link.

The proposed rule establishes six categories considered “waters of the United States.” They include traditional navigable waters, tributaries to those navigable waters, ditches used for navigation or effected by tides, certain lakes and ponds, impoundments and wetlands adjacent to “waters of the U.S.”

The proposal also includes a list of features that would be exempt from federal jurisdiction – such as groundwater and prior converted cropland. IFB supports these exemptions.

Lurkins urged the agencies to finalize a rule that also:

- Excludes ephemeral features and isolated wetlands.

“Both of those features are currently regulated by USDA in a way that will continue to protect water quality, while also making sure that there is no duplication of agency resources and minimizing the chances that a farmer will find themselves caught in a turf battle between three federal agencies,” Lurkins said.

- Exempts farm, roadside and drainage ditches.

- Excludes effluent-dependent streams – streams that flow only in response to tile flow or another form of artificial drainage -- from the definition of tributary, which would fall under federal jurisdiction.

- Includes a simple and easy-to-determine definition of “intermittent.”

“The agencies should consider some parameters like 90 continuous days of flow,” Lurkins said.

IFB plans to file more substantial comments to the agencies by the April 15 comment deadline. Lurkins encouraged members to participate by texting “WATERS” to 52886.

Content for this story was provided by FarmWeekNow.com.