May 07, 2014

New Federal Rule Threatens Control Over Water, Property

Guest column submitted by Senator Mike Crapo

Idahoans know the value of environmental stewardship.  Access to abundant, clean water is a central pillar of our state's agricultural and natural resource heritage, providing numerous outdoor recreational opportunities and a uniquely Idaho way of life.  For these reasons, you will not find people more connected or more committed to water quality and quantity than Idahoans. 

 

Unfortunately, recent moves by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) threaten the very control of our water that is so important to our state.  The EPA has released a new plan to invalidate Supreme Court rulings and assert greater control of the management of water on private property-even intermittent streams that may flow for only a day or two.  The so-called "Waters of the United States" rule vastly expands federal control over private landowners and represents a blatant power grab by the federal government  It must be stopped.

 

I have joined a number of my Senate colleagues to write directly to President Obama about this rule, noting the federal government is attempting "to obtain de facto land use authority over the property of families, neighborhoods and communities throughout the United States."

 

Under this plan, the EPA would work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to extend its reach beyond navigable waters to intermittent wetlands and other water bodies.  The stated reason by the agency is to provide greater clarification of water bodies subject to regulation under the federal Clean Water Act (CWA).  However, this proposal will only create more questions than answers.  By expanding the scope and reach of the CWA, this regulatory change will create greater uncertainty and litigation and increase the role of the federal government in the lives of property owners across the country.

 

This rule is not only aimed at industry or businesses, large and small, but at individual citizens as well.  A significant expansion of federal authority under the CWA will permit the government to exert more control over private landowners by deeming portions of their lands as "jurisdictional" and therefore subject to regulation.

 

Idahoans are right to be skeptical about the practical implications this rule will have on our water sovereignty.  Efforts to expand the federal government's jurisdiction over our waters threaten to upset the proper balance between state, federal, local and private parties in effective water quality management policies.   As a member of the Senate committee with oversight of the EPA, I look forward to working with all Idahoans to stop this federal overreach.