By Jeff Helms
MONTGOMERY, Ala., Jan. 23 — Alabama farmers today joined agricultural groups, landowners and businesses across the country in applauding new clean water regulations, replacing the overreaching Obama-era Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule.
Alabama Farmers Federation National Affairs Director Mitt Walker said the announcement ends a five-year saga, during which the WOTUS rule was challenged in court for expanding the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act to include ditches and seasonal streams.
“We appreciate President Trump following through on his pledge to repeal the disastrous WOTUS rule promulgated by the previous administration,” Walker said. “The new rule allows for the protection of water in a manner that is clear and non-ambiguous. Farmers and landowners have asked for years for a rule that they could interpret without hiring lawyers and consultants. We appreciate the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for proposing a rule that adheres to clear boundaries and consistency.”
The new rule specifically excludes most roadside and farm ditches, groundwater, farm and stock watering ponds and water bodies that form only when it rains. Federally regulated waters are limited to four categories: territorial seas and navigable waters including oceans and major rivers; perennial and intermittent tributaries; some lakes and ponds; and wetlands adjacent to federal waters.
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the new rule provides clarity while protecting water resources.
“After decades of landowners relying on expensive attorneys to determine what water on their land may or may not fall under federal regulations, our new Navigable Waters Protection Rule strikes the proper balance between Washington and the states in managing land and water resources while protecting our nation’s navigable waters,” he said.
EPA said the new rule could eliminate between $12 million and $27 million a year in permitting costs.
American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall praised the new rule.
“Farmers and ranchers care about clean water and preserving the land, which are essential to producing healthy food and fiber and ensuring future generations can do the same,” Duvall said. “That’s why we support the new clean water rule. It provides clarity and certainty, allowing farmers to understand water regulations without having to hire teams of consultants and lawyers. We appreciate the commitment of the agencies involved and this administration to crafting a new regulation that achieves important regulatory oversight while allowing farmers to farm. Clean water, clear rules.”