NORTH DAKOTA (KXNET) —
Update: 4PM Saturday, January 7: The quote that begins with, “It could be perceived as super far from the Missouri [River]…” was said to be Sen. Hoeven’s, but actually, it was Executive Director Scott Skokos who said it. It has been changed below.
Original Post: 6PM Friday, January 6:
President Joe Biden’s administration has finalized and rejuvenated the Obama-era Waters of the United States rule, or WOTUS.
WOTUS protects hundreds of thousands of small streams, wetlands, and other waterways, repealing a Trump-era rule that federal courts had thrown out and that environmentalists said left waterways vulnerable to pollution.
However, not everyone is happy with the rule, including many Ag groups as well as North Dakota’s own Congressional delegation.
Senator John Hoeven tells KX that WOTUS protects ephemeral water — which includes water that temporarily collects in rain ditches on people’s private property.
As a ranking member of the Senate Ag Appropriations Committee, Hoeven is concerned about how these regulations could impact farmers.
“They do it on an argument called NEXUS, with navigable bodies of water. They are saying well this water will flow into a navigable body of water therefore the EPA or the Corps, or both, can regulate it. And, that’s just wrong. It violates private property rights. It doesn’t make sense, and it’s based on an expansive reading of the Clean Water Act,” said U.S. Senator John Hoeven (R-ND).
Dakota Resource Council Executive Director Scott Skokos says WOTUS clarifies what producers can or cannot drain when it comes to irrigated farming and other operations.
Skokos says it will cause farmers and ranchers to change their practices, which will have long-term benefits for the health of the land and water.
Skokos says, “It could be perceived as super far from the Missouri [River]. Like a drainage that happens somewhere around north of Bismarck. But, it really is a part of that river, in the system, and how that water works. And, I think that’s the biggest disconnect. Because when you own that property you technically own everything, but those waters are ‘waters of the United States’ (WOTUS). If you use those resources improperly and out of line with nature, what will happen is you’re going to flood your neighbors downstream.”
A supreme court case could overrule and wash all of those protections away.
Sackett verses the EPA could dramatically reduce the number of wetlands and other waters protected under WOTUS.
The conservative court is expected to hand down a ruling next month.
Senator John Hoeven tells KX that he plans to address these regulations in the upcoming USDA Farm Bill.