by Pettus Read
There is an old story around these parts about a farmer out near the major rural area of the county who charged a passerby ten dollars to pull his car out of a mud hole with his farm tractor. This was back when most of our roads were not paved and strangers who didn't know the roads and their many pit falls could often find themselves stuck back in the middle of nowhere.
After the farmer had pulled the stranger out of the mud hole and he was back on dry ground, he asked the farmer, "At those kind of prices, I would think you would be pulling people out of the mud day and night."
While wrapping his log chain on the back of his tractor hitch the farmer answered the stranger in somewhat of a low voice and said. "Can't. At night I have to haul water for the hole."
Sorry to have to include such an old story for today's readers, but it sort of relates to an issue and some legislation happening right now up in our nation's capital. The Clean Water Restoration Act of 2007 (H.R. 2421 and S. 1870) is seeking to expand the Clean Water Act jurisdiction to virtually all wet areas in the United States. The word "restoration" used in the name of this legislation seems to leave the impression that the original 1972 Clean Water Act has fallen apart and needs to be restored in some way. Not that the original was anywhere close to perfect, but the "new and improved" version proposed will touch all of us in many ways. And, a lot of those ways are not for the best.
Since its enactment in 1972, the Clean Water Act has regulated "navigable waters," or waters of the U.S. The proposed legislation up in D.C. right now would delete the term "navigable" and replace it with "all intrastate waters" and add a lot of confusing language allowing the federal government to regulate "activities affecting these waters."
Concerning the "navigable" word removal and changing the language of current legislation, American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman recently was quoted as saying, "The legislation would grant - for the first time ever - the Environmental Protection Agency and the Corps of Engineers jurisdiction over all wet areas within a state, including groundwater, ditches, pipes, streets, municipal storm drains and gutters. It would grant these same agencies - for the first time ever - authority over all activities affecting those waters, regardless of whether the activity is occurring in water or adds a pollutant. With unfunded mandates, this slippery slope takes away power from state and local jurisdictions, shifting the control to the federal government for development and use of local land and water resources."
If you take the language of this legislation and give it to the courts to explain, they could even restrict the use of a mud puddle in the middle of your drive or yard. Permit costs and waiting periods that could be associated with this new legislation will put the agricultural industry right in line for added cost and regulation it just doesn't need. The term "all intrastate waters" used in the legislation will include every drop of water that hits the ground once it falls from the sky and will come under the guidelines of the federal government and our court system. Is that not a scary thought?
Stallman went on to say, "What does this mean for the typical residential landowner? Likely, a lot of hassle, expense and time spent in court. The legislation clearly states "all waters." Those of you with farm, stock and even goldfish ponds - beware."
With the recent drought and all the concerns for enough water for both man and beast as well as plant life in our state, you would think heavy handed, burdensome and costly federal regulations would be something that would be viewed by most folks as what it really is: a ridiculous piece of legislation that should never see the light of day.
However, there are those who don't see it that way and if we are not involved in getting it defeated, then get ready for the federal government to have a say in how you get that backed up rainwater out of your gutters. This legislation could be that far reaching.