New Navigable Waters Definition Clear As Mud
A clear, concise, Trump-era definition of navigable waters is set to be replaced with more confusing terminology, per a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rule released Dec. 30.
Alabama Farmers Federation has joined agricultural organizations across the country expressing concern over the newest federal definition, said Federation President Jimmy Parnell.
“As farmers, we want and need to protect the nation’s waters,” Parnell said. “This rule muddies the water for property owners, will make conservation more difficult and will create huge liabilities for farmers.”
The rule reverts to a strict, heavily regulated view of navigable water under the Clean Water Act. The definition is similar to a 2015 rule, which the Federation and its affiliated organization, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), opposed. That rule was challenged in multiple courts, later struck down by the Trump Administration and replaced with the clear Navigable Waters Protection Rule.
“We are extremely disappointed in the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers’ new Waters of the U.S. Rule,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “Farmers and ranchers share the goal of protecting the nation’s waterways, but they deserve rules that don’t require a team of attorneys and consultants to identify ‘navigable waters’ on their land.”
The definition of a navigable water is currently challenged in the Supreme Court. Oral arguments were heard October for Sackett v. EPA, where homeowners were stopped by the federal agency from building a home on their property because the land was considered a navigable water.
Federation staff members are monitoring this issue.