Obama Administration’s Illegal Implementation of Water Rule
U.S. Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD)
Since the misguided Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule was first proposed by the Obama administration in 2014, farmers, ranchers and local units of government in South Dakota and across the country have been rightly concerned about the rule’s impact on their operations. They were able to breathe a sigh of relief last October when a judge issued a nationwide stay halting the rule, but reports have recently surfaced that that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been moving forward with implementing the rule anyway – illegally. This is deeply troubling not only because it is another example of this administration blatantly ignoring the rule of law, but because the rights of landowners are being stripped away and they can no longer utilize their land due to burdensome permitting requirements that are being illegally imposed on them.
The WOTUS rule is one of the largest federal land grabs in the history of our country, giving the Army Corps and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) control of nearly all water, including man-made water management systems, farm ponds, drainage ditches and any other water that the EPA decides has a “significant nexus” to downstream water. Under WOTUS, farmers, ranchers and landowners would be forced – and allegedly are already being forced – to spend hours filling out burdensome paperwork to get permits from the EPA and Army Corps just to conduct normal agricultural activities or spray for weeds along our county roads.
The Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee recently held a subcommittee hearing regarding the allegations that the Army Corps is expanding federal control over land and water via WOTUS despite the court-ordered stay. During the hearing, a representative of the American Farm Bureau testified that that the Army Corps is regulating farmland based on light-sensing radar and aerial photographs, and then refusing to share these documents with the landowner, claiming that they are classified. This is unacceptable. Farmers are losing the ability to manage their land and utilize it in the best way possible.
As I said during the hearing, when land is subject to burdensome and unreasonable permitting requirements based on incomplete information or the illegal implementation of a regulation, business owners and ag producers alike lose the ability to develop and properly manage their land, which essentially prohibits them from using the land that they rightfully own. Our farmers and ranchers should be focused on growing crops and caring for livestock, not wasting time filling out paperwork or waiting around to get a permit to spray weeds in their ditches.
Implementing the WOTUS rule despite the nationwide stay may not only be an illegal taking from landowners, it runs against the will of a majority of Members of Congress, states who have sued the administration and countless ag groups across the country. I will continue to do everything I can to expose these abuses and protect South Dakota landowners from this unacceptable federal overreach.