Clean Water Rule comments

 

Testimony of Lauren Lurkins

Director of Natural and Environmental Resources

Illinois Farm Bureau

February 27, 2019

  • My name is Lauren Lurkins.  I am the Director of Natural and Environmental Resources for the Illinois Farm Bureau.  I am speaking tonight on behalf of our organization and our over 80,000 members.
  • In my capacity at IFB, I am privileged to work on behalf of farmers across Illinois as they attempt to understand the role of government agencies – at the state and federal level – regarding environmental issues that impact their lives and businesses.
  • I also have the honor of working alongside Illinois farmers as they prioritize environmental stewardship – both as the state’s largest farm organization and on their individual farms. 
  • The complicated and overlapping jurisdiction of EPA and the Corps is not just a hypothetical in our state, but a real life bureaucratic nightmare that plays out over and over again.
  • To start, in Illinois, we have 5 different Corps Districts that regulate farmers in different ways.  There is no consistency across the state into what actions require 404 permits, how to obtain 404 permits, nor is their consistency on the features over which the Corps has jurisdiction. 
  • My phone at Illinois Farm Bureau rings weekly with farmers telling their own organization about stories of their involvement with USDA, the Corps and EPA.  They tell of a true nightmare of unanswered questions, passing the buck, and attempts to find jurisdiction where it may not exist. 
  • Individual farmers often find themselves in the middle of three different federal agency opinions, all while the farmer simply wants to take action on their own land in the name of conservation.
  • Illinois Farm Bureau supports this proposed rule.  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.
  • Specifically, we support the new approach to exclude ephemeral features and isolated wetlands from the definition of WOTUS.
  • 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.
  • We also seek to improve upon the proposal.  In particular, we ask the agencies to consider the treatment of farm, roadside and drainage ditches as categorically excluded features. 
  • We also suggest that effluent-dependent streams – streams that flow only in response to tile flow or another form of artificial drainage – be excluded from the definition of tributary. 
  • We support a definition of intermittent that is simple and easy to determine.  The agencies should consider some parameters like 90 continuous days of flow.
  • We also support the list of features that are not WOTUS, including groundwater and prior converted cropland.
  • On behalf of Illinois Farm Bureau, thank you for the opportunity to speak tonight. 
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