The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and U.S. Department of the Army (Army) announced plans for upcoming community engagements to revise the definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS). The USEPA and Army say the agencies are “committed to developing a reasonable, effective, and durable definition of WOTUS that protects public health, the environment, and downstream communities while supporting economic opportunity, agriculture, and other industries.”
“Uncertainty over the definition of WOTUS has harmed our waters and the stakeholders and communities that rely on them. I look forward to engaging all parties as we move forward to provide the certainty that’s needed to protect our precious natural water resources,” said Michael S. Regan, USEPA Administrator.
USEPA and the Army intend to revise the definition of WOTUS following a process that includes two rulemakings. A forthcoming foundational rule would restore the existing regulations defining WOTUS with updates to be consistent with relevant Supreme Court decisions. A separate, second rulemaking process would refine this regulatory foundation and establish an updated and durable definition of “waters of the United States.”
To help ensure the USEPA and Army hear from diverse perspectives, future engagement activities will be developed in coordination with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“It is vital that farmers and rural Americans have a seat at the table and a voice in this process so that the rule responds to concerns and realities on the ground. The engagement in the coming months is important and I encourage all stakeholders to provide their experiences and views in order to help shape future policy,” said Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.
The USEPA and Army announced 10 regionally focused roundtables will be held this fall and winter. These yet to be scheduled roundtables will allow a full range of stakeholders to engage and discuss their experience with definitions of WOTUS, including what has worked and what has not within their geographic areas. The roundtables will provide opportunities to discuss geographic similarities and differences, particular water resources that are characteristic of or unique to each region, and site-specific feedback about implementation.
The Agencies are accepting written recommendations from members of the public. The deadline to submit written recommendations is September 3, 2021. You may send written feedback identified by Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2021-0328 to Regulations.gov.
For more information on submitting written recommendations or to register for the public meetings, see www.epa.gov/wotus.