EPA, Corps withdraw WOTUS interpretive rule
Yielding to heavy criticism from farm groups, as well as government personnel trying to operate under the rule, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers have withdrawn The Interpretive Rule, a controversial list of agricultural conservation practices that would be exempted from the proposed Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule. Both agencies signed a memorandum of understanding on January 29 that immediately withdrew the rule.
The Interpretive Rule was released as a final rule in March 2014 along with the proposed WOTUS rule. Publicized as non-controversial, The Interpretive Rule listed 56 conservation practices that, if completed to Natural Resources Conservation Service standards, would be exempt from Clean Water Act permitting requirements.
"Unfortunately the list left out many practices, including several used by rice producers, and ostensibly added what many farmers consider to be normal farming practices, such as fencing and brush clearing, to the list," said Ben Mosely, vice president of government affairs for the USA Rice Federation, which had also been critical of the rule. "While the withdrawal of The Interpretive Rule is a step in the right direction, we now turn our attention to the proposed WOTUS rule itself that seeks to clarify and expand the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act."
WOTUS is expected to be published as a final rule in March or April of 2015, and Mosely said USA Rice has significant concerns, particularly with regard to the rule's proposed regulation of irrigation ditches and canals, as well as making any water in a flood plain jurisdictional water requiring permits to work in.