Photo by NRCS
Photo by NRCS

President Trump has begun the process of rescinding or rewriting a controversial Clean Water Act regulation that would have given the government broad jurisdiction over land and water with an executive order signed Feb. 28. The order directs the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a formal review of the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, which took effect Aug. 28, 2015, and ostensibly was implemented to clarify the agency’s authority over various waters. That jurisdiction – based on several U.S. Supreme Court decisions – had included “navigable” waters and waters with a significant hydrologic connection to navigable waters. But the regulation broadened that to include, among other water bodies, upstream waters and intermittent and ephemeral streams such as the kind farmers use for drainage and irrigation. It also covered lands adjacent to such waters.

American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall had the following statement: “President Trump’s executive order to ditch the Waters of the U.S. rule is a welcome relief to farmers and ranchers across the country today. “The flawed WOTUS rule has proven to be nothing more than a federal land grab, aimed at telling farmers and ranchers how to run their businesses. The Environmental Protection Agency failed to listen to farmers’ and ranchers’ concerns when drafting the rule and instead created widespread confusion for agriculture. Under the rule, the smallest pond or ditch could be declared a federal waterway. “Farmers and ranchers have been calling for a common-sense approach to regulatory reform, and today the Trump administration responded to that call. EPA has too long been characterized by regulatory overreach that disregards the positive conservation efforts of farmers and threatens their very way of life. Today’s action is as much a beginning as an end, and there is much work to do to ensure that any revised rule is transparent and fair for America’s farmers and ranchers.”