The National Corn Growers Association says that recent legislation introduced to expand the Clean Water Act would put unnecessary burdens on agricultural producers. H.R. 2421, the Clean Water Restoration Act of 2007, was introduced by Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., John Dingell, D-Mich., and Vernon Ehlers, R-Mich., along with a bipartisan group of more than 150 co-sponsors.
The bill would remove the term "navigable waters" from the 1972 Clean Water Act, expanding the scope of areas and activities covered by federal regulation. H.R. 2421 replaces the term "navigable" with a new legislative definition of "waters of the United States" that includes all "intrastate waters" and all "activities affecting these waters."
NCGA Production and Stewardship Action Team Chairman Bill Chase worries that the new definition could create a burden for producers.
"This bill would be the most far-reaching expansion of the original Clean Water Act, extending federal jurisdictional reach to everything from ditches and gutters to groundwater," Chase says. "The original intent of Congress when it passed the Clean Water Act was to broadly regulate pollution without federal oversight of every isolated puddle in the nation."
Chase says that corn growers continue to be committed to the protection and restoration of wetlands, however, he says regulating ditches, culverts and pipes, desert washes, dry arroyos, farmland and treatment ponds as "waters of the United States" and subjecting those waters to all of the requirements under federal regulation will only result in confusion and not in water quality protection.
But Natural Resource Defense Council Senior Attorney Jon Devine says the bill would actually clear up confusion that has allowed some water resources to become polluted. "Recent interpretations of the law have placed many of the nation's important water bodies in legal limbo, allowing polluters to discharge into water resources across the country without complying with the Clean Water Act's intended safeguards."