What’s happening in Washington on water and wetlands

Farm Forum

The next few weeks should see movement in Washington that will affect several aspects of our national water policy. Here’s a round-up of what will be happening, why it matters and who you can contact when it does:

Water Resources Development Act

Both houses of Congress have passed their own version of a bill that sets policy for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, an agency with a long history of dubious decision making. Unfortunately, the bill in conference could actually make the agency’s planning worse, as aspects of both the House and Senate bills weaken existing National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements that new projects be properly vetted and that the public have the opportunity to give input. These changes are being made under the guise of speeding up project construction, but delays in constructing Corps projects are largely a result of the lengthy authorizations process and lack of funding—not the environmental study requirements. The National Wildlife Federation has called on the conference committee to retain the important protections that NEPA provides to America’s waters and taxpayers’ wallets. Contact Lacey McCormick,, 512-610-7765.

Waters of the United States

The Environmental Protection Agency is thought to be close to proposing a rule that would clarify which bodies of water are—and which are not—protected under the Clean Water Act. This proposed rule should make a real difference in our ability to protect the small streams and wetlands that feed into the nation’s rivers, lakes, and bays. Currently the water supplies of 117 million Americans are risk due to the lack of clarity in the law. The proposed rule will likely exclude upland ditches, ponds, and irrigation systems and will likely not touch the existing farming, ranching, and forestry exclusions. Contact Jan Goldman-Carter,, 202-797-6894.

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