Water & Wetlands

Since the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972, EPA, the Supreme Court, and regulated stakeholders have struggled to find a definition of “navigable waters” that follows the intent of the CWA while simultaneously respecting property rights and state authority. In the CWA, “navigable waters” are defined as “waters of the United States.” In 2006, the Supreme Court charged EPA with crafting a definition for “Waters of the United States.” The product of this effort was the 2015 WOTUS Rule: an illegally broad definition that attempted to exert jurisdiction over isolated waterbodies and features that only flowed in response to precipitation. Currently, EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers are working to revise the WOTUS definition to provide more clarity and focus on waterbodies that truly contribute to downstream water quality.

PLC Believes: The original intent of Environmental Protection Act’s and Army Corps of Engineers’ jurisdiction is truly those waters which are navigable by some sort of craft.

EPA and the Corps Believes: The EPA the Army Corps have jurisdiction over traditional navigable waters, their tributaries, and their abutting wetlands.

Impact on Ranchers: If the EPA and Corps were to have regulatory authority of any waterway that could lead to a navigable pathway (as seen in the 2015 WOTUS Rule), farmers and ranchers would face significantly increased regulatory burden. Producers could be required to obtain permits for common, everyday activities, like driving a tractor near an irrigation ditch or grazing cattle near a mud hole. These normal, environmentally sound activities should not fall under the regulatory authority of a federal agency. Fortunately, the Agencies have taken steps to reduce the federal government’s overly burdensome regulation of our waters by issuing a revised version of the WOTUS definition. PLC submitted comments in support of the revised rule, and looks forward to its finalization.