During a visit to McCorkle Nurseries in McDuffie County, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler outlined key features of the new Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule and encouraged agricultural stakeholders to respond during the required comment period.
While speaking to Georgia farmers and ag supporters on Feb. 6, Wheeler emphasized three key principles the agency kept in mind while writing the new rule intended to replace the 2015 rule the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers implemented.
“We will hear from a lot of people who are unhappy with it. We will hear from a lot of people who want us to go back to the 2015 definition,” Wheeler said. “It’s important that your voices are heard. Please let us know what you think about our proposal.”
The EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released details of their new proposed WOTUS definition in December. Its publication in the Federal Register was delayed by the partial federal government shutdown and is scheduled to be published in mid-February.
Ensuring that a landowner could tell whether water on their property is under federal jurisdiction without having to hire an outside professional was the first principle the agency followed while writing the rule, Wheeler said.
The second principle was to clearly define the difference between federally and state-protected water.
“The federal government is not the only government out there protecting water,” Wheeler said. “The states do it as well.”
The third principle was to provide certainty for the American public in a manner that would be upheld by the courts.
The new WOTUS definition has six components: traditional navigable waters; tributaries to those waters; ditches constructed to be navigable or tributaries; certain lakes and ponds; impoundments; and wetlands adjacent to any of the other five components.
Key non-WOTUS features include: those that only contain water during or after a rainfall; groundwater; roadside and farm ditches; prior converted cropland and stormwater control; and wastewater treatment features.