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WOTUS hearings offer chance to speak out on proposed changes

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers are hosting the virtual public hearings on the Waters of the U.S. rule.

Farmers were concerned that if WOTUS was implemented, any water on their farms, down to potholes or wet spots in fields, would be regulated by EPA. (Michelle Rook/Special to Agweek)
Farmers were concerned that if WOTUS was implemented, any water on their farms, down to potholes or wet spots in fields, would be regulated by EPA. (Michelle Rook/Special to Agweek)

WASHINGTON — There are three opportunities to comment on the proposed change to the federal Waters of the U.S. rule.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers are hosting the virtual public hearings.

A day before each session the agencies will post an agenda of each hearing including a list of pre-registered speakers in approximate order on this webpage. People may also register to listen to the public sessions at the registration links above.
In November, the agencies announced the signing of a proposed rule revising the definition of “waters of the United States.” The agencies propose to put back into place the pre-2015 definition of "WOTUS," but updated to reflect decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court on related cases.

The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register . There is a public comment period that is open until Feb. 7.

The definition of WOTUS is important in the enforcement of the federal Clean Water Act and affects farmers, landowners, property developers and local governments.

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In 2015, the federal agencies tried to amend regulations defining “waters of the United States.” But district courts in North Dakota and Georgia have blocked the Obama-era definition and those rulings now apply in 28 states, which still go by the pre-2015 rule.

Farm Bureau, which has been heavily involved in litigation over WOTUS, asserts that the 2015 rule , is too broad, allowing the federal government to regulate any waters, not just those that are navigable, and could regulate many land areas that only temporarily hold water, such are farm fields, pastures and ditches.

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