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New rules affect navigable waters

Staff Reports
The East Fork of the Carson River is considered a navigable river and its a water of the United States. Under previous rules, its tributaries and canals were going to also be considered under the same rules, which have been overturned by the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Kurt Hildebrand

New federal rules to protect navigable waters promise to provide the certainty farmers and ranchers need to maintain agricultural production and enhance the land under their care, California Farm Bureau Federation officials said.

On Thursday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Army finalized the Navigable Waters Protection Rule to define “waters of the United States.”

The Carson River is considered a navigable water under the federal definition and is regulated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The agencies are streamlining the definition so that it includes four simple categories of jurisdictional waters, provides clear exclusions for many water features that traditionally have not been regulated, and defines terms in the regulatory text that have never been defined before, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Congress in the Clean Water Act explicitly directed the Agencies to protect “navigable waters.”

The Navigable Waters Protection Rule regulates these waters and the core tributary systems that provide perennial or intermittent flow into them. The final rule fulfills Executive Order 13788 and reflects legal precedent set by key Supreme Court cases as well as public outreach and engagement, including pre-proposal input and comments received on the proposed rule.

The new rule delineates where federal regulations apply and gives state and local authorities more flexibility to determine how best to manage waters within their borders.

Assertions have been made that the new rule will reduce jurisdiction over thousands of stream miles and millions of acres of wetlands.

The final rule along with state, local, and tribal regulations and programs provide a network of protective coverage for the nation’s water resources.

California Farm Bureau President Jamie Johansson said release of the rule by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers will encourage farmers and ranchers.

“You won’t find a stronger ally than farmers and ranchers when it comes to protecting land and natural resources, because they depend on those resources to produce food and farm products,” Johansson said. “The new rule promises clear guidelines to help farmers maintain and improve water quality while retaining the flexibility they need to manage their land.”

The Navigable Waters Protection Rule will replace the 2015 Waters of the United States rule that would have given federal agencies extensive authority to regulate routine farming activities.

“The old WOTUS rule generated only confusion and litigation,” Johansson said. “We hope the new rule will lead to a more cooperative approach that sees farmers and ranchers as partners in protection of natural resources.”