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USEPA Announces Finalized Clean Water Rule

CapitalJust weeks after the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to send the proposed Waters of the United States Rule under the Clean Water Act back to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) to be rewritten, the USEPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) announced that the rule has been finalized and is now being referred to as the “Clean Water Rule” rather than the previously used “Waters of the United States Rule under the Clean Water Act.” 

A USEPA news release dated May 27, 2015 says, "the Clean Water Rule only protects the types of waters that have historically been covered under the Clean Water Act. It does not regulate most ditches and does not regulate groundwater, shallow subsurface flows, or tile drains. It does not make changes to current policies on irrigation or water transfers or apply to erosion in a field. The Clean Water Rule addresses the pollution and destruction of waterways – not land use or private property rights."  

In its press release, the USEPA also noted that the Clean Water Rule:

  • Defines and protects tributaries that impact the health of downstream waters.
  • Provides certainty in how far safeguards extend to nearby waters.
  • Protects the nation’s regional water treasures.
  • Focuses on streams, not ditches.
  • Maintains the status of waters within Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems.
  • Reduces the use of case-specific analysis of waters.

Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison released a statement in support of the renamed rule, saying, "The Environmental Protection Agency’s final Clean Water Rule protects our way of life by helping to ensure Minnesota’s lakes, rivers, and drinking water supplies are clean and preserved for the future." The USEPA says the Clean Water Rule "protects clean water that is necessary for farming, ranching, and forestry and provides greater clarity and certainty to farmers about coverage of the Clean Water Act. Farms across America depend on clean and reliable water for livestock, crops, and irrigation. The final rule specifically recognizes the vital role that U.S. agriculture serves in providing food, fuel, and fiber at home and around the world. The rule does not create any new permitting requirements for America’s farmers. Activities like planting, harvesting, and moving livestock have long been exempt from Clean Water Act regulation, and the Clean Water Rule preserves those exemptions."

North Dakota Sens. John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp, as well as Rep. Kevin Cramer; South Dakota Sen. John Thune and Rep. Kristi Noem; Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Ryan Zinke of Montana; and Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson each released critical statements about the Clean Water Rule while continuing to refer to it as the "Waters of the U.S. Rule." Sen. Hoeven vowed to either kill the rule or prevent it from receiving funding, saying, "We will continue our efforts to either rescind the rule through legislation or defund it through the appropriations process." Montana Sen. Steve Daines said, "Montanans who live and work on the land every day know how to best manage our state’s resources – not federal bureaucrats in Washington who want to regulate every pond, puddle, and ditch in our state. I’ll continue working to stop the EPA’s overreach and protect Montana jobs and Montana agriculture and natural resources."

"Regardless of the many viewpoints on what this rule does or does not do, it is clearly evident that the new rule will result in changes to the actual implementation of the Clean Water Act, especially within the Upper Midwest," says Jeff Hruby, AE2S Water Resources Practice Leader.

The Clean Water Rule will be effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. If you have questions about how the Clean Water Rule could impact your facilities, planned projects, or existing programs, contact Jeff Hruby at Jeff.Hruby@ae2s.com or 701-221-0530.

If you have any questions concerning the content of this newsletter,
please contact Heather Syverson at 701-364-9111 or Heather.Syverson@ae2s.com.
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