Protecting Water Sovereignty
Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo
Our water is one of our greatest resources. Access to clean, abundant water is fundamental to our economic well-being and critical to communities, economic development, agriculture, commerce, transportation, recreation and energy. Efforts to expand the federal government's jurisdiction over our waters threaten to upset the appropriate involvement of state, federal, local and private parties in effective water quality management policies. That is why I recently joined 29 of my Senate colleagues in once again opposing efforts to expand the federal government's jurisdiction over our waters.
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. The administration indicated it planned to proceed with drafting related regulations, and recently, the agencies withdrew the guidance and advanced an associated draft rule. Concurrently, the EPA released a draft report that the agency indicates will provide the basis for its adjustments to federal jurisdiction over water resources.
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. Following up on my ongoing concerns with this federal overreach, I joined fellow members of the Senate and Congressional Western Caucuses, including fellow Idaho congressional delegation members Senator Jim Risch and Congressman Mike Simpson, in contacting EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to express opposition to the EPA's efforts to significantly expand federal regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act. We conveyed our ongoing concern with this potential expansion of federal control over all wet areas in a state despite congressional actions countering this encroachment.
Additionally, we maintained that using such reports to potentially change a law passed by Congress would further erode the public's confidence in our Constitutional system of checks and balances. This expansion of federal authority has not been authorized by Congress. Legislation known as the "Clean Water Restoration Act," 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 of the potential damage this legislation could cause. We also called attention to the vote during the debate on the Water Resources Development Act in which a bipartisan group of 52 senators voted to reject the administration's Clean Water Act jurisdiction guidance, which would have resulted in effectively unlimited jurisdiction over intrastate water bodies.
The Obama administration's efforts to control more of our water represent a blatant expansion of government regulatory power over Idaho's water sovereignty and private property rights. I will continue to push back against this intrusion that could negatively impact farms, ranches, small businesses and property owners and hinder economic development. I encourage Idahoans to take a close look at the reportand continue to share your views. Such major shifts in control of one of our most important resources are of significant concern, and I will continue to work with others in Congress to urge the administration to end this economically destructive intrusion.
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