Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo
Visiting areas of the world where clean water is not easily attainable is a reminder of how lucky we are to live in a country that puts great emphasis on maintaining a healthy water supply. This fundamental necessity must be protected. However, greatly expanding the federal government's jurisdiction over our waters, to include virtually all interstate and intrastate waters and their tributaries, is the wrong way to go. The Obama Administration and its allies in Congress have taken this misguided approach on several occasions in recent years, and each time they have not succeeded because state and local governments, small businesses, farmers, ranchers and everyday citizens have pushed back in protest. Unfortunately, the Administration is at it again.
On April 27, 2011, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released the "Clean Water Protection Guidance," which would broaden federal jurisdiction over a variety of water sources, such as some geographically isolated wetlands, intermittent streams, ditches and mud flats, among other sources.
In Idaho, water is fundamental to our economic well-being and critical to sustaining communities, economic development, agriculture, commerce, transportation, recreation and energy. Unfortunately, according to the Administration's own estimates, the guidance could cost taxpayers an additional $171 million annually in mitigation and bureaucratic overhead alone. Such an expansion of federal regulation will also lead to added permitting delays, further affecting commerce and jobs.
Additionally, this expansion of federal authority has not been authorized by Congress. In fact, legislation known as the "Clean Water Restoration Act (CWRA)," which would have achieved similar results, failed to attain enactment in the last Congress. I placed a hold on the bill, signaling my intention to filibuster if it were to come to the floor of the Senate, because it represented a blatant expansion of government regulatory power over Idaho's water sovereignty and private property rights. The legislation and subsequent guidance is conflict-ridden, and many farmers, ranchers, small businesses and property owners have been rightly concerned. I am joining with others in Congress to urge the Administration to reject this course of action, and I will continue to fight this economically destructive intrusion.
From my time practicing water law, I understand all too well the impact of an overly-aggressive interpretation of the Clean Water Act that goes well beyond Congressional intent, and I urge Idahoans to take a close look at the guidance and submit comments. The Administration has indicated that it will take comments on the proposed guidance up to sixty days from the time that it was issued. The Administration then plans to proceed with drafting related regulations. Additional information regarding the guidance and how to submit comments can be accessed through EPA's website through the following link: http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/guidance/wetlands/CWAwaters.cfm#tabs-2
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