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Protect Your Yard. Ditch The Rule!

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When my husband and I bought our home in Ankeny a few months ago, one feature that stuck out was the home’s expansive back yard for our dogs and the opportunity to grow various trees and flowers.

However, since the backyard has a slight slope, rain water pools at the bottom of that slope along our fence. Our dogs like to splash and play in that standing water, chasing neighbor dogs along that fence. That water saturates the ground and creates a mud bath for our pups, but causes no harm. Or does it?

A proposal by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has me wondering about that 15 feet of space along our chain link fence.

According to the Clean Water Act, Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court, the EPA has authority to regulate “navigable” water –water that floats a boat – and significant waters which support the navigable waters. But EPA has proposed a rule that would define the agency’s jurisdiction much more broadly—to also include land that could channelize or retain water for a period of time—like the puddle in my backyard and the ditches along our highways.

The proposed rule brings forth a myriad of concerns and questions.

Could I be forced to obtain a permit every time I want to mow along that fence line when that area dries after the storm? After all, depositing “biological materials” is considered to be a “pollutant” under the Clean Water Act. What about when I want to aerate my lawn and seed those areas? Would I need permits for those actions, too?

Yes, it sounds crazy. I would never be able to maneuver a boat in that puddle. Nor would I ever want to float a boat in a road ditch.

This proposal goes way beyond what Congress intended, and it also threatens my family’s farm in northeast Iowa. The proposal means farmers would likely have to obtain a federal permit for conservation practices like terraces , grassed waterways or fences, and for fertilizer application. These actions, the EPA and the Army Corps says, could cause a discharge into the regulated waters.

Now think about the farmers, like my parents and my brother, who rely on the land for their livelihood. This proposed rule would create a mountain of paperwork, additional cost for consultants to help navigate the bureaucracy and would stifle their attempts at improving the land.

For Iowa’s sake, for our nation’s sake, it’s time to tell the EPA to ditch this rule. The EPA is taking comments of the proposed water rule through October 20. For more information about the rule, and how to make comments, go to Iowa Farm Bureau’s website on the rule.

By Bethany Baratta. Bethany is Iowa Farm Bureau’s commodities writer.