Rule to clear up Clean Water Act creates tidal wave of opposition

A change in federal clean-water rules has become a hotbed of controversy.
While popular with some major stakeholders, including hunters and anglers, some business and farm groups are vehemently opposed. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky., calls it, “The biggest land grab in the history of the world.”

Two federal court decisions had “muddied” the rules on where the Clean Water Act applies, but the new revision has been proposed to clarify the issue.
Scott Manley, regional director of conservation programs for Ducks Unlimited, said waterfowl rely on the country’s wetlands and the proposal would not change the exemptions that apply to farming.

“Nobody’s interested in slowing down the agricultural productivity of the country,” he said. “This new draft rule helps clarify how agriculture can continue as it is today to feed the country.”

Alana Cook a conservative blogger counters, “the Environmental Protection Agency is requesting jurisdiction over all public and private streams in the United States that are ‘intermittent, seasonal and rain-dependent.’”

Jan Goldman-Carter, senior manager for wetlands and water resources at the National Wildlife Federation, the confusion has been a complicated mess. “So, it’s been wasteful, it’s been time-consuming, and it’s been expensive on all sides,” she said.

The proposed rule is from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers and is subject to a 90-day public comment period. It is aimed at defining which streams and wetlands are protected under the Clean Water Act.

Opponents are worried about the rule’s effect on agriculture as it pertains to so-called isolated wetlands including “prairie potholes,”

While the EPA claims in a statement that, “the proposed rule will benefit businesses by increasing efficiency in determining coverage of the Clean Water Act,” Rogers countered that the rule “would absolutely freeze economic activity in this country.”

Cook says the rule would give the EPA authority over streams on private property even when the water beds have been dry in some cases for hundreds of years.

Some lawmakers and farmers express concern that this kind of regulation would allow the EPA in conjunction with the Bureau of Land Management, the Department of Energy and the Army to dictate on a never-before-seen scale everything from grazing rights, food production, animal health and the use of energy on private lands.

Information on the proposed rule is at

More opposition comment can be found at