EPA publishes final Navigable Waters Protection Rule
On April 21 the EPA published the final rule to replace the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule. Environmental activist groups have already filed a lawsuit to try and overturn it.
In January, the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers signed an agreement on the new rule, called the Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR).
The WOTUS rule, finalized by the two agencies in 2015, regulated bodies of water that agricultural groups said were never intended to fall under the federal jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. These included farm ponds, as well as ditches and streams that only hold water during periods of rain.
Georgia Farm Bureau opposed the WOTUS rule from the time it was initially proposed in 2013.
In February 2020, multiple environmental groups sent a letter announcing their intent to file suit to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Chief Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite.
Under the NWPR, four categories of water may be regulated by the EPA and Corps under the CWA as waters of the U.S.: territorial seas and traditional navigable waters; perennial and intermittent tributaries; certain lakes, ponds and impoundments; and wetlands adjacent to jurisdictional waters. Georgia examples of these categories are: traditional navigable waters -the Atlantic Ocean and the Chattahoochee River; perennial/intermittent tributary – Peachtree Creek in Atlanta, which flows into the Chattahoochee; lakes, ponds, impoundments - Carters Lake in Ellijay; and wetlands – wetlands adjacent to the first three categories of water.
The new rule also lists 12 categories of water that don’t fall under federal jurisdiction. These include: groundwater; ephemeral streams, swales, gullies, rills and pools that only contain water due to rain or snowmelt; farm, irrigation, stock watering and log cleaning ponds; most farm and roadside ditches; and prior converted cropland. The rule maintains strict protections for drinking water and doesn’t loosen federal protection against pollutants entering waterways.