From the digital edition of the August issue of Drovers/CattleNetwork.
You know how the rest of that statement goes. I can’t help but think of it when I read, hear or talk about the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ proposed rule to redefine what waters fall under federal jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act (CWA).
Before I go any further, let me make one thing clear: Responsibly managing water resources should not simply be a “check the box” and “do the minimum necessary” practice. As an industry that relies on clean water for our animals, our crops, our survival, implementing sound water-management practices better be looked at as a make it or break it issue for every single farming and ranching operation across the United States — regardless of location, size or animal or crop you grow. Without water nothing else matters. Period.
Now that I’ve got that off my chest, the proposed “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule has a skunky funk to it. And here are just a few reasons why the agencies’ latest attempt to redefine WOTUS doesn’t pass my smell test and shouldn’t pass the smell test for anyone who’s got a farm or stock pond, any number of ditches or an ephemeral stream or two on their property.
During my years in D.C., I learned that on any policy topic, pro or con argument points can generally be based on policy implications, economic ramifications, logistical feasibility or even process. While I learned from mentors that basing one’s argument solely on process isn’t likely a winning strategy, in this instance, it’s a factor that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Before the rule was proposed, EPA issued a draft scientific assessment called “Connectivity of Streams and Wetlands to Downstream Waters.” EPA has said the final report will be the scientific basis for the final WOTUS rule. Here’s the problem — the report isn’t finalized and the rule has been proposed. Furthermore, when the very scientific panel tasked with finalizing the report learned from industry stakeholders that the rule existed, EPA told them they could see it when it was proposed to the public. Seems like a waste of taxpayer dollars and a complete slap in the face of good and transparent government to make a claim on one hand that a massive proposed rule like this will be based on a scientific report only to propose the rule before having the final report.