Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and other Iowa officials last week called on the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw its proposed "Waters of the United States" rule, saying it will damage state and local conservation and environmental protection efforts.

"The overriding concern of a diverse group of impacted stakeholders, including state leaders, is that the proposed rule will impose significant barriers to the advancement of innovative, state- and local-driven conservation and environmental practices that would actually advance our common goal of water quality," the Iowa officials said in a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Jo-Ellen Darcy of the Corps.

Along with Branstad, the letter was signed by Iowa Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey, Iowa De­­partment of Natural Resources Director Chuck Gipp, Iowa Ec­­onomic Development Authority Director Debi Durham, Iowa De­­­­partment of Transportation Director Paul Trombino III, Iowa Utilities Board Chair Libby Jacobs and Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Mark Schouten.

Under the proposal by the EPA and the Corps, first unveiled in March, the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) regulations would be extended to ephemeral waterways; ditches, waters, including wetlands, located on land that is riparian or in a floodplain; and even to the extent of a provision for "other waters" determined on a case-by-case basis. The rules would also extend federal jurisdiction to areas that may hold or convey water for only a short period of time.

Farm Bureau, other farm organizations and a number of lawmakers have strongly opposed the proposal.

Several key concerns

In their letter to the EPA and the Corps, the Iowa officials cited several key concerns for farmers and other stakeholders with the proposed rule. Those concerns are:

• The rule disregards the state’s lead role in the CWA to protect and promote water quality.

• The rule would force farmers to obtain federal permits to advance water quality projects, which would discourage farmers from taking actions to improve water quality.

• The proposed rule is ambiguous and would likely be tied up in litigation for years to come. That would create uncertainty for farmers, conservation interests, industries and communities across the state.

• The rule would create burdensome costs for farmers and others and would siphon resources that could be used for conservation practices. The additional costs would also impact other infrastructure projects, they wrote.

The Iowa officials’ letter concludes by saying the government’s proposed rule seems to be more concerned with asserting federal control over local water bodies than actually improving local water quality. It also notes the bipartisan opposition the proposal has faced in the U.S. House of Representatives and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture. 

"We strongly urge you to listen to the consensus concerns of the states, including Iowa, and withdraw this rule," the letter said.

The EPA and the Corps are accepting comments on the proposed Waters of the U.S. rule through Nov. 14. Go to for more information and instructions on how to make a comment.