MFBF Submits Comments on Clean Water Act

The Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation (MFBF) submitted comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) urging them to withdraw their proposed rule which expands the definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act. The rule would significantly impede farmers, ranchers, landowners, home builders, construction companies, local governments and small businesses.

 

MFBF has significant concerns with the limitless jurisdiction the proposed rule provides to the EPA and the Corps. Specifically,

The rule would make remote landscape features that carry only minor volumes of water (if any) or only carry water after a weather event subject to CWA jurisdiction, including the addition of ditches and ephemeral drainages.
The rule uses the unclear concept of ordinary high water mark, as well as bed and bank, as the key identifiers for tributaries. This would include land with only subtle changes in elevation, where any land where rainwater naturally channels as it flows downhill;
The proposed rule leaves it to the agencies “best professional judgment” to determine riparian areas and flood intervals for flood plain identification.
A new “other waters” category serves as a catch-all would include anything with a “significant nexus,” either alone or in the aggregate, that would affect the “chemical, physical or biological” integrity of a navigable water. The proposed rule suggests that other waters could be connected even if they are located in different landforms, have different elevation levels and have different soil and vegetarian characteristics as long as they “perform similar functions” and are located “sufficiently close” to a traditional “water of the United States.”
 

In the comments, MFBF strongly encouraged agencies to engage in discussions with stakeholders, especially agricultural organizations, to develop a proposed rule that is within the limits established by Congress and recognized by the Supreme Court. MFBF respectfully asked EPA and the Corps to withdraw the proposed rule to significantly expand the definition of WOTUS.

 

In addition to the formal comments submitted by MFBF, 13 county Farm Bureaus in Minnesota submitted comments, nearly 500 comments were submitted by members in response to calls to action by MFBF and 1,800 signatures from Minnesotans were delivered to EPA opposing the rule. The comment period ended November 14.

 

While EPA reviews comments, MFBF is urging the U.S. Senate to take action similar to the U.S. House of Representatives to prevent the agencies’ over-reaching authority and to pass legislation to prevent the EPA and Army Corps from developing, finalizing, adopting, implementing, applying, administering or enforcing the proposed WOTUS rule. The proposed rule inappropriately seeks to extend federal power and place more top-down regulatory burdens on all types of land use activities. The unintended consequences of imposed, one-size-fits-all federal regulation often stifles conservation activities as well as the flexibility necessary to resolve site-specific circumstances.

 

Minnesota Farm Bureau representing Farmers • Families • Food is comprised of 78 local Farm Bureaus across Minnesota. Members make their views known to political leaders, state government officials, special interest groups and the general public. Programs for young farmers and ranchers develop leadership skills and improve farm management. Promotion and Education Committee members work with programs such as Ag in the Classroom and safety education for children. Join Farm Bureau today and support our efforts to serve as an advocate for rural Minnesota, www.fbmn.org.


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