EPA ruling creates confusion

LAKE HAVASU CITY - A ruling in late May on "Waters of the United States" by the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers creates more confusion than clarity, Mohave County Supervisor Buster Johnson said last week.

The new rule defines some ditches as "waters of the U.S." unless they meet certain exemptions, which the county will be required to prove. It will require the EPA to impose tighter regulations and mandates on counties that fall under the Clean Water Act.

"This new rule will waste countless hours either proving a ditch is exempt or getting a permit to clean out vegetation and debris from ditches," Johnson said.

Ditches will fall under federal jurisdiction requiring counties to spend thousands of dollars in permitting fees for what should be normal ditch maintenance under Public Works, the supervisor noted.

The latest rule is intended to prevent the pollution of smaller streams, ditches and wetlands that drain into major rivers.

The rule ensures that waters protected under the Clean Water Act are more precisely defined and predictably determined, making permitting less costly, easier and faster for businesses and industry, according to the EPA.

The rule is grounded in law and the latest science, and is shaped by public input. It does not create any new permitting requirements for agriculture and maintains all previous exemptions and exclusions.

"For the water in the rivers and lakes in our communities that flow to our drinking water to be clean, the streams and wetlands that feed them need to be clean too," EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in a statement. "Protecting our water sources is a critical component of adapting to climate change impacts like drought, sea level rise, stronger storms, and warmer temperatures, which is why EPA and the Army have finalized the Clean Water Rule to protect these important waters, so we can strengthen our economy and provide certainty to American businesses."

Supervisor Johnson said the new rule would require private developers and land owners to obtain permitting for man-made ditches. That could cause a "drastic delay" in development or even stop projects altogether, he said.

The Mohave County Board of Supervisors wrote numerous letters and testified before Congress in opposition to the final rule.

"In creating their final rule, the federal government ignored the concerns of counties who have expressed continuously that this rule would create an undue hardship on county government and does little to protect the waters of the U.S.," Johnson said.