August 02, 2021

Idaho Senators Introduce Legislation to Uphold Navigable Waters Protection Rule

Washington, D.C.--U.S. Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch (both R-Idaho) joined U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-West Virginia) and 30 Republican colleagues in introducing legislation, S. 2567, codifying the 2020 Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR).  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently outlined plans to replace the NWPR with a new rule that goes even further than the Obama-era Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule.  If the NWPR is replaced, the EPA could go as far as to regulate ditches on private lands and converted croplands, which could ultimately inflict severe harm upon the agricultural, construction, home building, forestry, mining and energy sectors of the economy. 

“The Supreme Court has already spoken to make it clear ‘navigable’ waters can be regulated, and the Trump Administration formulated a rule that fits within those guidelines,” said Crapo.  “To go back would give the federal government an unnecessary power grab to seize state and private property.  The federal government should stay out of decisions best made by state and local on-the-ground experts for effective and environmentally-sound water quality management policies.” 

“With the Navigable Waters Protection rule, Idaho’s water users finally had a reasonable standard that didn’t conflate ditches and puddles with rivers and lakes.  A return to the extremely misguided WOTUS rule would be devastating for Idaho’s farmers, ranchers and landowners.” said Risch.  “The Navigable Waters Protection rule must not be vacated.”

Additional co-sponsors of the legislation are Senators Kevin Cramer (R-North Dakota), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyoming), Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi), Richard Shelby (R-Alabama), John Boozman (R-Arkansas), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), Bill Hagerty (R-Tennessee), Roger Marshall (R-Kansas), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Richard Burr (R-North Carolina), Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee), Roy Blunt (R-Missouri), Steve Daines (R-Montana), Tim Scott (R-South Carolina), James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina), Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), Tommy Tuberville (R-Alabama), Deb Fischer (R-Nebraska), Mike Rounds (R-South Dakota), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska), John Hoeven (R-North Dakota), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Mississippi) and Josh Hawley (R-Missouri).

Full text of the bill can be found HERE.

Background:

In 2015, the Obama Administration finalized a rule that defined all bodies of water, including ephemeral streams created by rainfall, as subject to federal government regulation.  This created significant confusion and burdensome red tape for Idaho’s agriculture industry and many others.  The Idaho Congressional Delegation had been a key proponent of a rewrite of the rule to more responsibly reflect the role of state and local jurisdictions.

The Trump Administration 
proposed a rule to replace the Obama Administration’s 2015 WOTUS rule with a new rule that provided much-needed predictability and certainty for farmers by establishing clear and reasonable definitions of what qualifies as a “water of the United States.”  The new Navigable Waters Protection Rule was finalized last year.

On day one of his Administration, President Biden signed an executive order that would roll back the Trump Administration’s executive order which began the process of rescinding President Obama’s WOTUS rule.  In January, Crapo and Risch introduced a Senate Resolution affirming the need to uphold the NWPR and still maintain the NWPR should not be withdrawn or vacated. 

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