Waters of the United States

What’s the Background?

Several U.S. Supreme Court decisions limited the authority of EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under the Clean Water Act (CWA) to actions affecting navigable waters and waters with a hydrologic connection to navigable waters. But under the “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule, which took effect Aug. 28, 2015, that jurisdiction was expanded to include ditches, grass waterways, and ephemeral drainage such as gullies that can form in farm fields. In October 2015, a federal appeals court stopped the WOTUS rule’s implementation until litigation over the regulation is concluded.

Why Does It Matter to our Producers?

The federal Clean Water Act (CWA) protects the nation’s “navigable” waters, their tributaries, and adjacent water bodies that are hydrologically connected to them. The EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a rule that expands their authority over various waters by redefining WOTUS to include many farm fields and farm ditches, which could affect farmers’ ability to use their lands.

What is NPPC’s position?

NPPC believes the WOTUS rule has significant technical problems, and the process EPA undertook to develop the rule violated basic due process and long-standing procedural protections. NPPC is urging Congress and the Obama administration to withdraw the rule and work with affected stakeholders, including farmers, to develop a rule that clarifies which waters are and are not covered under the CWA and that is workable for all stakeholders. NPPC also is involved in litigation over the rule.

“We all want clean water, but this rule isn’t about clean water, it’s about EPA and the Corps [of Engineers] taking over private property, growing the size of government, and micromanaging hundreds of farming and business activities.”
– NPPC Past President Dr. Ron Prestage