WOTUS is in the spotlight once again. Cattle producers representing several states voiced their concerns with the Environmental Protection Agency’s and Army Corps of Engineers’ ongoing Waters of the U.S. rulemaking attempt at a roundtable organized by the Kansas Livestock Association.
“Very important to our members are clarity with jurisdictional rules. We supported the navigable waters protection rule in particular because they gave some guidelines for producers to decide ‘do I need to talk to EPA or do I need to talk to the state regulatory agency,” said Aaron Popelka, Vice President of Legal & Government Affairs with the KLA. “I think we have some concerns about how broad things can grow.”
One issue he talked about was ephemeral water bodies – or those that appear temporarily after precipitation. WOTUS classifies those as a body of water that would be regulated.
“If the agency tried to regulate all ephemerals you’d really be chasing your tail for very little environmental impact. Definitely, you can see that in the scientific advisory board’s 2014 letters when they talk about connectivity having a grading approach. When you look at that, you are perennials and even some intermittents are going to have an impact. Ephemerals have little,” he said. “I was just looking at the drought monitor and there are portions of the southwest (Kansas) that haven’t had measurable rainfall in a year. Agricultural activity is there and if you get rain it’s going to take a while for that soil to absorb that. So we look at framing rules by how far is the reach versus the actual impact on water quality and what can the agencies handle.”
This roundtable was one of 10 accepted by the EPA and Army Corps. About a year ago, the EPA announced that rather than facilitate public engagement—which is the typical course of action for major rulemakings—the agency would instead ask private organizations to entirely plan and propose a roundtable with representatives from agriculture, conservation groups, developers, water and wastewater managers, and other groups.
Planning for more roundtables is underway.
National Correspondent / AgNet Media, Inc.
Sabrina Halvorson is an award-winning journalist, broadcaster, and public speaker who specializes in agriculture. She is a native of California’s agriculture-rich Central Valley.