By Jessica Domel
Multimedia Reporter

Texans, now is the time to weigh in on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) plan to clarify what land areas and water features do and do not fall under federal jurisdiction.

EPA’s revised Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) proposal was published in the Federal Register Thursday, kicking off a 60-day comment period.

“Today’s release of a new draft Clean Water Rule is a major step toward fair and understandable water regulation on America’s farms and ranches and other working lands,” Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), said. “The previous rule would have treated much of the landscape as though it were water itself. That wasn’t just confusing, but also illegal, which is why so many federal courts blocked its implementation.”

The embattled WOTUS rule was released in 2015, but has since faced a series of legal challenges including a lawsuits filed by AFBF, Texas Farm Bureau and Matagorda County Farm Bureau.

After taking office, President Donald Trump signed an executive order directing EPA to revise the rule.

Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the proposed revision provides a clear, understandable and implementable definition of what is considered a water of the U.S. and falls under federal jurisdiction.

“Unlike the Obama administration’s 2015 definition of ‘waters of the United States,’ (the) proposal contains a straightforward definition that would result in significant cost savings, protect the nation’s navigable waters, help sustain economic growth, and reduce barriers to business development,” Wheeler said.

Under the proposal, the following categories would be considered waters of the U.S.:

  • Traditional navigable waters.
  • Tributaries to those navigable waters.
  • Certain ditches such as those used for navigation, or those affected by tides.
  • Certain lakes and ponds.
  • Impoundments.
  • Wetlands that are adjacent to a water of the U.S.

The following would not fall under federal jurisdiction as a water of the U.S.:

  • Features that only contain water during or in response to rainfall.
  • Ground water.
  • Most ditches including most roadside or farm ditches.
  • Prior converted cropland.
  • Storm water control features
  • Waste waters and waste treatment systems.

The comment period on the proposed rule ends April 15.

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