Maybe I shouldn’t admit to this, but I may have a navigable water right in my front yard. It’s a wet spot that appears in the lawn after every heavy rain and hangs around for a few hours.
It would never float even the smallest boat, but could this wet spot soon be in the crosshairs of federal water regulating agencies? Could I be forced to get a federal permit every time I put down some weed killer or move a flower bed?
Sure, it sounds absurd, and my front yard is just a lawn. But for farmers who count on the land for their livelihood, a proposed rule from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could end up being a costly and bureaucratic nightmare.
The agencies’ proposal clearly takes a very expansive view in defining navigable waters subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act.
It’s a pretty broad list.
The agencies say the regulations should extend to ditches, small "headwater" tributaries riparian areas, adjacent waters and other areas that are far away from rivers, lakes and private ponds.
The regulations are warranted, the agencies say, for areas that may only hold or convey water for a short time after a heavy rain. (Like my lawn?)
Every acre in the state?
It’s safe to say that in a state like Iowa, crisscrossed by streams and prone to heavy rain, nearly every agricultural acre would be affected. That means farmers would then have to obtain a federal permit for many types of farming activities such as applying fertilizer, building a fence or installing terraces. That’s because the actions could cause a discharge into this expanded universe of regulated waters.
It’s pretty clear that the water rule proposal goes way beyond what Congress intended. The proposal poses a clear threat to a landowners’ right to farm, and ironically, it has the potential to jeopardize the encouraging progress on conservation and water quality that Iowa farmers have made over the years and hope to continue in the future.
All of this adds up to a simple conclusion: This proposed rule needs to be ditched.
The EPA is taking comments on the proposed water rule through Oct. 20. For more information on how to make comments, go to Iowa Farm Bureau's website on the rule.