Concerns raised over proposed ‘waters of the US’ rule; public input period

IRON COUNTY – On April 21, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers jointly released a new proposed rule that would redefine what constitutes “waters of the U.S.” under the Clean Water Act. Concerns have been raised regarding the impact this rule will have at the local government level.

In changing the definition of “waters of the U.S.,” the proposed rule would expand the range of waters that fall under federal jurisdiction. The proposed rule is open for public comment.

The proposed rule could allow federal jurisdiction over an increased number of county-owned ditches. The National Association of Counties has expressed concern that once a ditch is under federal jurisdiction, the maintenance process will become more difficult.

According to the Federal Register: “This proposal would enhance protection for the nation’s public health and aquatic resources and increase Clean Water Act program predictability and consistency by increasing clarity as to the scope of ‘waters of the United States’ protected under the Act.”

The Environmental Protection Agency claims the rule will clarify questions regarding jurisdiction on water, Iron County Commissioner David Miller said. But Miller has several concerns.

“Well, the problem is this so-called clarification, that’s taking almost 400 pages of clarification, is very threatening to water rights – how water can be used, penalties for use of water in inappropriate ways and who determines that,” Miller said, “that the EPA itself is a unilateral judge, jury, legislative body and executioner.”

Greta Hyland, who has worked with the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service and nonprofit environmental groups in various capacities specializing in environmental policy and management over the past four years, said:

I can see the concerns the proposed regulation might raise being: Who foots the bill at the end? What sort of oversight is there? Will it be heavy handed? No doubt, local entities are going to run into regulations whether it’s the EPA, the Corps, or land managers – they do need to know which situations require oversight and whether that oversight is local or federal.

According to a definition released by the National Association of Counties, the proposed rule could expand the Clean Water Act jurisdiction. Counties could feel the impact of the rule because more waters would be federally protected, which could lead to new rules or standards.

A letter from senate and congressional western caucuses to the EPA expressed concern regarding changes to jurisdiction and increased permitting that could result in economic barriers – negatively affecting farms, businesses and other developmental projects.

The letter also stated: “… uncertainty established under the proposed rule will ensure that expanding federal control over intrastate waters will substantially interfere with the ability of individual landowners to use their property.”

The issue is not clean water, Miller said; everybody wants clean water, but blanket control from a government body is not the solution.

“This is unacceptable,” Miller said. “Their program and their process is dangerous to state sovereignty – to property right sovereignty. It’s a very big issue – we’re just getting this started. Anybody who has water rights, anybody who uses water, should be concerned.”

Though Iron County has dealt with concerning issues such as the wild horse gather, prairie dog issues and others, Miller said, this is more concerning than anything he has seen.

“The counties don’t want to have to answer to the feds any more than they have to,” Hyland said. “I can’t say I blame them, but it is the future problems that are the concern because those counties have their hands out fast when they need money – plus, there is all the federal law they must abide.”

Because of the complexity of the proposed rule and the unexplored impacts on Clean Water Act programs, counties have been urged by the National Association of Counties to ask for an extension from a 90-day comment period to 180 days. Iron County is currently awaiting the granting of its extension.

To make a public comment on the matter, visit the Regulations website.

St. George News Editor-in-Chief Joyce Kuzmanic contributed to this report.


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  • 375ultra June 1, 2014 at 9:56 am

    just say no to the feds

  • Carol Bowns June 1, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    This is troubling to say the least. Water in the west is the dictator of our lives. This like Dave said, is a big deal to west. I suggest getting the Western States Legal foundation involved. Dave I would really like to talk to you about this. I know today you are probably full of commitments but my phone number is 586-6896.

  • Brian June 1, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    Just another step towards absolute tyranny. They’ve already declared every mud puddle in the US, including those on your property after a rainstorm, as “navigable waters”, thereby convincing themselves they have jurisdiction and can do whatever they want (under an old law that gives them a lot of power, but only over waters specifically used for transportation, which are very limited). Get used to it. Congress and the Constitution are becoming more obsolete than an 8 track cassette, which will spell the end of our Republic (the loss of the balance of powers, not the 8 track cassettes).

  • Philt June 1, 2014 at 7:11 pm

    There will no longer be what we call “Private Property”. The feds will be on everyone’s property to snoop. Lord knows they have Google Earth and the Drones. Welcome to “Hell” people!

  • Brian June 1, 2014 at 10:04 pm

    What does Hatch being a Mormon have to do with it? You do realize that incumbents are almost impossible to get out anywhere in the country? We got rid of Bennett. Voting out 50% of our self-serving incumbent senators is a pretty good record, compared to almost any state out there. Too bad [dis]count my vote just neutered the caucus system, so we’ll never see that again.

  • Red Rocker June 3, 2014 at 6:30 am

    Since a link to the proposed rules wasn’t included we have no idea what these proposed rules entail. If they pertain to the quality of the water and preventing misuse and contamination, and the local governments have failed in their responsibilities, I might agree to further oversight.

    • Joyce Kuzmanic June 3, 2014 at 7:24 am

      Red Rocker, I’m so sorry you didn’t see the resources we provided you – may we direct your attention to the bottom of the report, see the caption “RESOURCES”? We have provided you the documentation right there so you don’t have to go hunting for it. 🙂
      Joyce Kuzmanic
      Editor in Chief

  • Man on the Silver Mountain June 4, 2014 at 2:49 pm

    Federal Government: Do not farm. DON’T WORRY ABOUT BEING SELF EFFICIENT!
    We must do everything for you.

    Sheeple No.456821: Ohh thank god for that. Please enslave us now!!

    Sheeple No.871532: Yes here’s the last bit of money from my paycheck! Make me safe!

    Federal Government: cough cough ignorant fools hehehehe cough cough stupid stupid americans heheh cough cough

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