On May 27, EPA released its final rule clarifying its jurisdiction over Waters of the United States under the Clean Water Act.
The final document comes more than a year after the controversial proposed rule was released last April, and it takes more than a million public comments into account.
Farmer concerns on the final rule center on regulation of ditches. In the months leading up to yesterday’s announcement, American Farm Bureau launched a social media campaign against EPA with the slogan “Ditch the Rule.” EPA responded with its own campaign, branded “Ditch the Myth.”
In a conference call with reporters, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy stated explicitly that ditches with intermittent or transitory flow that aren’t relocated tributaries, excavated in a tributary, or that drain wetlands, are exempt from EPA’s jurisdiction.
She says, ”So, in other words, if you used to be a stream, and now you’re only a ditch; if you still look and act like a stream, you’re a stream. If you never were one; if all you’re doing is changing a drainage pattern on a farm or ensuring that your land is not increasing in terms of erosion, that is perfectly OK.”
Questions linger on increased regulation of other farming activities like applying fertilizer; farm groups expect more answers after analyzing the final rule’s three hundred pages.