The Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army for Civil Works announced they are repealing part of the Clean Water Act — specifically, a 2015 rule that expanded the definition of which waters are protected.
The 2015 rule expanded Clean Water protections to waterways like ditches, canals and wetlands. Idaho joined 12 other states in a lawsuit against the federal government over this. As a result, the 2015 rule, which was repealed last week, never really went into effect in Idaho.
“From a practical matter, it doesn’t actually change anything on the ground right now in Idaho," said Marie Callaway Kellner, the Conservation Program Director for the Idaho Conservation League. She said the group is more concerned, however, about potential weakening of protections in the coming months.
Still, some groups, like the American Farm Bureau Federation, are relieved knowing that the federal law expanding the definition of U.S. waterways won’t go into effect.
“If the federal government controls virtually every drop of water in the U.S., you could say farmers need a permit to work their land," said Sean Ellis of the Idaho Farm Bureau.
Ellis said the Farm Bureau fought the 2015 rule because it would have created inordinate burdens for farmers.
“Because, you know, the water from their land might flow into a ditch that only flows a couple months a year," he said. "So all of a sudden, they [would] need a federal permit to do what they’ve always done.”
Later this year, the EPA will likely put forward what it calls "Step 2" of this plan: a clearer definition of federal waterways and how they will be regulated.
Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen
Copyright 2019 Boise State Public Radio