EPA Seeks Public Comment on Proposed Guidance Clarifying the Scope of Clean Water Act Regulations
On April 27, 2011, EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE) issued proposed guidance which will clarify whether particular waters are regulated under the Clean Water Act and provide certainty for farmers, developers and others. The new guidance does not expand federal jurisdiction beyond existing regulations of the waters of the U.S.
EPA believes that protection of Midwest wetlands and streams is more important than ever as we experience more pronounced effects from flooding, climate change, and habitat loss. We are fortunate to have a vast network of wetlands and streams in the Midwest that support the great Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. We are blessed with a great diversity of lakes, ponds, rivers, streams and wetlands: from small prairie potholes in Iowa to swamps in the Missouri Bootheel; from salt lakes to Lake of the Ozarks; and from small seasonal streams to the largest river in the country.
We are committed to a transparent process for developing this guidance, including the opportunity for public comment, which will be considered as the agencies finalize the guidance in 2011.
A 60-day public comment period on the proposed guidance begins April 27, 2011. EPA will consider written public comments in reaching its final decision on the guidance.
SUPPORTING AGRICULTURE IN THE MIDWEST
Our wetlands, rivers and streams provide significant benefit to local communities by:
- Acting like sponges to soak up floodwater, thereby reducing flood damage and bank erosion.
- Filtering out sediment and pollutants to improve the quality of the surface and ground water our communities rely on for drinking, irrigation, and livestock watering.
- Providing water that supports habitat for grazing livestock and animals.
This new guidance does not change any of the existing agriculture exemptions under the Clean Water Act. All of the Act's exemptions from permitting requirements for normal agriculture, forestry and ranching practices continue to apply:
- Agricultural stormwater discharges and return flows from irrigated agriculture.
- Normal, ongoing agricultural, silvicultural and ranching activities.
- Normal activities related to construction and maintenance of irrigation ditches, and maintenance of drainage ditches.
- Normal activities associated with construction or maintenance of farm, forest, and temporary mining roads.
The guidance also clearly describes waters not regulated under the Act, including the following water bodies, which often are associated with agricultural activities:
- Non-tidal drainage and irrigation ditches not connected to a jurisdictional water.
- Artificially irrigated areas that would revert to upland if irrigation stops.
- Artificial lakes or ponds used for purposes such as stock watering.
- Artificial ornamental waters created for primarily aesthetic reasons.
- Water-filled depressions created as a result of construction activity.
PROTECTING MIDWESTERN WATERS
Midwestern waters are crucially important to our way of life. They:
- Provide sources of drinking water for most urban areas; water for industrial use, including water to cool energy plants; and water for domestic uses, such as cooking, bathing, dishwashing, and cleaning.
- Provide hunting, fishing, boating, swimming, wildlife viewing and other recreational opportunities that are significant to our economy.
- Support the Central Flyway, a primary migration route for birds within the western hemisphere.
- Provide food and spawning and rearing habitat for fish species.
For more information: http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/guidance/wetlands/CWAwaters.cfm