April 30, 2007
CONGRESS TO CONSIDER MAJOR EXPANSION OF CLEAN WATER ACT
Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.) and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.) plan to introduce legislation this year to expand protections under the 1972 Clean Water Act to isolated wetlands and other waters not covered by the Act. By deleting the word “navigable” from the Clean Water Act and adopting a statutory definition of “waters of the United States,” regulatory programs under the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers would expand to include all waters on the surface of the United States.
“This is really an effort to undo a 2001 Supreme Court decision in the case of Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. Army Corps of Engineers,“ said FFVA Regulatory Affairs Manager Alan Peirce. “In that case, the court found that the Clean Water Act did not extend to an ‘isolated’ Illinois water body.”
Subsequent to that decision, EPA and the Corps directed their field staff to stop applying Clean Water Act regulations to isolated wetlands and other non-navigable waters. “This decision has been very positive because it has clarified the jurisdictional boundaries of the federal agencies and allowed them to focus on the most important waters,” said Peirce.
If the proposal is approved, water in irrigation ditches, farm ponds, bird baths, water fountains, and even the water in your bathtub and toilet could arguably be covered under the Clean Water Act and subject to federal regulation, Peirce said. Clearly that was never the intent of the 1972 Congress.
FFVA members are strongly encouraged to contact Florida’s congressional delegation in opposition to this proposal. For further information, please contact FFVA’s Government Affairs Office at (850) 521-0455.