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“Water, water everywhere.” In the midst of the current drought, we have not heard those words for a long time.
But I do remember during recent floods that water was everywhere. In fact, I distinctly recall driving down F.M. 1303 on my way home and seeing “puddles of water” where normally there was nothing but acres of dry land. I wondered how long before someone was going to declare those puddles to be Waters of the United States (WOTUS), and thus regulate them.
At the time, that seemed a bit far-fetched, but today it is closer to reality.
Water is a serious issue, whether it is an overabundance of water as in the floods of 1998 or an extreme lack of water as in the current drought.
Water has always been a valuable resource, especially in agricultural areas such as Texas, but most people take water for granted. They go to the faucet, turn on the spigot, and fill their glass with sparkling clean water. They can cook, water plants, wash clothes, or use it for recreation.
Water is our lifeblood, and thus can easily become political. Conservatives do not want “dirty water and air,” as liberals accused them of in past campaigns.
Conservatives, and especially farmers and ranchers, have the utmost respect for the earth’s natural resources. Of course, these resources must be protected from overuse, misuse, and contamination. That is — or should be — a given.
But too much of a good thing (protection) can be harmful. It can be stifling to agriculture, to business, to development, and to production. This is what is happening with the new WOTUS rules.
The Clean Water Act was a good thing — but it expanded, as government bureaucracies typically do. We see government overreach with laws that began with the best of intentions. In 1972, the Clean Water Act was to improve the 1948 Federal Water Pollution Control Act, to address concerns about pollutants in our water supply. It was to establish quality standards for surface water regulations. But these good intentions have become muddled.
Now with this administration’s newly expanded WOTUS rule comes harm to private enterprise and development. Thus we see such organizations as the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and the American Farm Bureau joining in fighting the expansive and unclear regulations now being imposed on industry and private citizens.
The NFIB and organizations representing agriculture and other industries are pushing invoking the Congressional Review Act, which could repeal or revise the newest WOTUS rules.
According to the Texas Farm Bureau’s publication “Texas Agriculture,” president Russell Boening said “The rule reaches far too broadly to cover wet patches and areas that are usually dry or remote from navigable water.”
A lawsuit now working its way through the system claims the latest iteration of WOTUS violates the U.S. Constitution as well as Supreme Court law, and should be struck down.
For 15 years, Chantell and Mike Sackett have been fighting the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the right to build their home on their own property in Idaho, but are prevented, due to WOTUS. Everyone is hoping the decision will provide some needed clarity to the WOTUS rule. A Supreme Court decision is expected later this year.
As it now stands, the WOTUS rule is ambiguous and vague, making it almost impossible for property owners and builders to know whether or not they are in compliance. A ruling by the Congressional Review Act could help establish clear standards concerning WOTUS and could repeal the expansion of federal authority over wetlands, farms, and private property.
Thus small farmers, ranchers, developers, contractors, and other small businesses wait for a decision on the Sackett case.
The future of WOTUS is about more than water. It is about more than politics. It is about our future.
That’s my opinion.