The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army finalized the Clean Water Rule that has become known as the Waters of the United States or WOTUS.
According to an EPA news release, the rule “ensures that waters protected under the Clean Water Act are more precisely defined and predictably determined” and specifically notes that it “does not create any new permitting requirements for agriculture and maintains all previous exemptions and exclusions.”
Regarding regulation of ditches, the rule “limits protection to ditches that are constructed out of streams or function like streams and can carry pollution downstream. So ditches that are not constructed in streams and that flow only when it rains are not covered.”
Agricultural organizations are analyzing the final Clean Water Act Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule released today to determine whether it answers the concerns they have raised about the impact the regulation would have on farmers and ranchers, but most express reservations.
“We are undertaking a thorough analysis of the final WOTUS rule to determine whether the Environmental Protection Agency listened to the substantive comments farmers and ranchers submitted during the comment period,” said American Farm Bureau president Bob Stallman. “Based on EPA’s aggressive advocacy campaign in support of its original proposed rule—and the agency’s numerous misstatements about the content and impact of that proposal—we find little comfort in the agency’s assurances that our concerns have been addressed in any meaningful way.”
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy released an editorial commentary to farmers and ranchers explaining what they did in the final rule. “Feedback from the agricultural community led us to define tributaries more clearly,” they write. “We also got feedback that our proposed definition of ditches was confusing. We’re only interested in the ones that act like tributaries and could carry pollution downstream—so we changed the definition in the final rule to focus on tributaries.”
Listen to EPA administrator Gina McCarthy and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy announced the final rule here: Final WOTUS rule announcement