A river runs through it?
Congress is once again considering the Clean Water Restoration Act (CWRA), which would amend the Clean Water Act (CWA) of 1972. Several agencies, such as the Washington-based National Association of Counties (NACo), have revived their opposition to the bill, saying it will lead to over-regulation of local projects. However, NACo may change its policy in response to some amendments made to the bill.
Like the previous version of CWRA, which failed to pass in the last session of Congress, the bill introduced April 2 by Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., would eliminate “navigable” from the definition of “waters of the U.S.” that are covered by CWA.
However, NACo says that CWRA could greatly increase the number of projects that require federal approval because removing the word “navigable” could place even small bodies of water, such as retention ponds and drainage ditches, under federal jurisdiction. That could lead to additional layers of regulatory paperwork that could delay projects and increase costs. Feingold said his bill would not change current regulatory practices. “All this bill does is reaffirm protections for the same waters that were protected prior to recent Supreme Court decisions,” he said in a statement.
A Congressional committee passed a new version of CWRA with an amendment that attempts to redefine which waters would fall under federal jurisdiction, but it still removes the word “navigable,” according to NACo. At NACo’s annual conference on July 28, the association’s Environment, Energy and Land Use Steering Committee will vote to accept one of two policy recommendations: one to support the amended bill, another to continue the current opposition, says NACo Associate Legislative Director Julie Ufner. “The committee will have to debate [the proposals] and decide which will become NACo policy,” she says.
More information is available at www.naco.org.