The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers’ have rolled back the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act with a new Clean Water Rule, which will review and revise the definition of ‘waters of the United States’ (WOTUS) in an effort officials say is "to ensure it is consistent with President Trump’s February 2017 executive order."
The new WOTUS definition separates regulated waters into six categories:
- Traditional navigable waterways: Will remain federally regulated as they have since the original 1980 regulation.
- Tributaries to traditional navigable waterways: Only federally regulated if they contribute flow to a traditional navigable waterway in a typical year (on a 30-year basis). Ephemeral features are excluded.
- Ditches that function like a traditional navigable waterway, such as the Erie Canal, will be federally regulated.
- Only ditches that contribute flow to a traditional navigable waterway in a typical year are regulated.
- Lakes and ponds: Like tributaries, they would be regulated if they contribute flow to a traditional navigable waterway in a typical year.
- Impoundments: Impoundments such as check dams and perennial rivers that form lakes and ponds behind them have been regulated since the 1986 regulation and will continue to be federally regulated.
- Adjacent wetlands: Wetlands that have a direct hydrological surface connection to another water of the U.S. in a typical year are federally regulated.
The new WOTUS rule specifically excludes any waters that are not included in the six regulated categories above. It also explicitly excludes groundwater, prior converted cropland, water control features and artificially irrigated areas like fields flooded for cranberry growing.
“Clear rules and clean water - that’s what the EPA should stand for, and today’s announcement marks a hopeful new chapter for farm country," says House Ag Committee Chairman Mike Conaway. "The Trump administration’s proposed definition of “waters of the U.S.” is the next step to replacing the burdensome 2015 WOTUS rule and to creating streamlined and simplified rules for all landowners. I applaud this administration for listening to concerns raised by farmers and ranchers and their representatives in Congress. I am eager to see a rule that restores integrity to the regulatory process and supports American agriculture as it seeks to preserve our natural resources.”