WASHINGTON – A bipartisan group of U.S. senators has introduced legislation intended to prevent a pair of federal agencies from significantly expanding the focus of the Clean Water Act.

The senators say their legislation, the Federal Water Quality Protection Act (S. 1140), will protect farmers, ranchers and private landowners by directing the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to issue a revised “Waters of the United States” rule that does not include isolated ponds, ditches, agriculture water, storm water, groundwater, floodwater, municipal water supply systems, wastewater management systems, and streams without enough flow to carry pollutants to navigable waters.

“Our legislation gives the EPA the direction it needs to write a reasonable rule that will truly protect our ‘navigable’ waterways,” said Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) “By striking the right balance, we’ll keep our waterways safe and pristine and allow them to be used as natural resources.

“Our next step is to work together to ensure this bill moves quickly through Congress. It’s time for Washington to finally focus on preserving our rivers and lakes and delivering certainty to American citizens.”

Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) stressed the importance of the bill at the grass roots. “No one wants cleaner water or better land conditions than the families who live on American farms. “That is why it is incredibly important that the EPA rewrite the Waters of the United States rule with input from the people who live and work on the land and alongside these waters every day.”
Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) agreed. “I’m proud to lead agriculture’s charge in pushing back against EPA’s egregious federal overreach. The last thing rural America needs to worry about is more burdensome and costly federal oversight down on the farm.”

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the committee on the Environment and Public Works, emphasized the collaboration at the heart of the bill. “I am proud of the bipartisan work that went into the Federal Water Quality Protection Act,” he said. “I look forward to moving this legislation through the Environment and Public Works Committee and to the Senate floor.”
“North Dakota is in the middle of an historic wet cycle, impacting farmers across our state with flooding and pooling water,” said Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.). We have to make sure that EPA takes these unique conditions into account and proposes a rule to regulate water that actually considers what is happening on farmers’ land.”
The Federal Water Quality Protection Act directs the agencies to issue a revised proposal that spells out that:
Traditional navigable waters and interstate waters include:

  • Streams identified on maps at the scale used by EPA to identify potential sources of drinking water.
  • Streams with enough flow to carry pollutants to a navigable water, based on a quantifiable and statistically valid measure of flow for that geographic area, and
  • Wetlands situated next to a water of the United States that protect water quality by preventing the movement of pollutants to navigable water.
  • Areas unlawfully filled without a required permit.

Not included among the rosters of designated waters are:

  •  Water that is located below the surface of the land, including soil water and groundwater.
  •  Water that is not located within a body of water (e.g., river, stream, lake, pond, wetland), including channels that have no bed, bank or ordinary high water mark or surface hydrologic connection to traditional navigable waters.
  • Isolated ponds.
  • Storm water and floodwater management systems.
  • Wastewater management systems.
  • Municipal and industrial water supply management systems.
  • Agricultural water management systems.
  • Streams that do not have enough flow to carry pollutants to navigable waters.
  • Prior converted cropland.
  • Areas lawfully filled pursuant to a permit or areas exempt from permitting.