Congressman Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) sent a letter to President-Elect Donald Trump last week, strongly encouraging him to repeal the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's "Water of the United States," a rule he called both "harmful and flawed."
"The EPA should not be putting restrictions on Valley farmers' use of their property," said Denham. "The people spoke, Congress acted, and the current administration refused to acknowledge their concerns. President-Elect Trump has a real opportunity to support the ag community that feeds America by immediately rescinding this burdensome rule."
WOTUS defines the scope of water protected under the Clean Water Act, which established "basic structure for regulating discharges of pollutants into the waters of the United States and regulating quality standards for surface waters." Under CWA, federal and state permitting authorities were created in order to protect navigable waters from pollution. States were also encouraged to protect groundwater and non-navigable intrastate waters.
The letter, which was backed by 28 additional members of Congress, urged immediate action on Trump's part upon taking office to repeal WOTUS, as Denham said it has "thrown the Central Valley's ag community into a state of uncertainty as to how it will be regulated by the federal government."
WOTUS expanded the definition of "navigable waters" in 2015 to small bodies of water such as farm ponds and drainage ditches, making them subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act, regardless of size or continuity of flow. Previously, only interstate waters were under the scope of federal jurisdiction.
In the WOTUS final rule, EPA said agencies clarified the scope of WOTUS in light of statute, science, Supreme Court decisions in U.S. v. Riverside Bayview Homes, Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Rapanos v. United States, and the agencies' experience and technical expertise. The final rule also took into consideration public comments.
In January, Congress passed a joint resolution that would have nullified WOTUS; however, the repeal was vetoed by President Barack Obama.
"The new WOTUS rule furthers the Administration's desire to ignore the term ‘navigable' and essentially declares jurisdiction over all waters, regardless of their scope and purpose," the letter stated. "The Administration is attempting to unilaterally broaden its jurisdiction which will have serious long-term consequences for the nation's business owners, homeowners, private property owners and manufacturers as well as agriculture and rural economies."