Is there nothing the federal government will not micromanage into a bureaucratic knot of red tape?

Now the Environmental Protection Agency has rewritten the rules for the Clean Water Act in such a way that gives it authority over just about any stream, dry creek bed or backyard wading pool in the country, even though the law as originally written was meant to protect navigable interstate waterways from pollution.

The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on April 21. The public comment period will be open for 91 days and will close on Monday, July 21.

At a recent meeting of the Nevada Conservation Commission, according to the Nevada Appeal, state engineer Jason King, whose office determines who in Nevada has rights to various water sources, said, “I look at this as an attempt to get into the regulation of the amount of water — an attempt to get their nose under the tent.”

The commission was told the new rules would require federal permits for the most minor changes to the smallest of tributaries, dry creek beds and just about anywhere rain might fall. It would be devastating to farmers, ranchers and others who use water as a part of their business.

An article in the Nevada Cattlemen’s Association newsletter quoted National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Bob McCan of Victoria, Texas, as saying: “This is a step too far, even by an agency and an administration notorious for over-regulation. This proposal by EPA and the (Army) Corps (of Engineers) would require cattlemen like me to obtain costly and burdensome permits to take care of everyday chores like moving cattle across a wet pasture or cleaning out a dugout. These permits will stifle economic growth and inhibit future prosperity without a corresponding environmental benefit. This proposed regulation and the burdensome federal permitting scheme will only hinder producers’ ability to undertake necessary tasks and, in turn, result in an exodus of ranchers from the field.”

The definition of the nation’s waters is changed in the rules to include “rivers, streams, ditches, wetlands, ponds, lakes, playas, and other types of natural or man-made aquatic systems.”

Even without the new rules the EPA is threatening to fine a Wyoming couple $75,000 a day for building a stock pond on their property after getting full approval from that state’s water engineer. Also there was no evidence of pollution.

In their notice, according to Fox News, the EPA cited Andy and Katie Johnson for “the discharge of pollutants (i.e., dredged or fill material) into the waters of the United States” by building a dam and for not getting a permit from the Army Corps of

Engineers to do so.

Andy Johnson said the EPA never took soil or water samples to show there was pollution, “It’s all an assumption.”

The EPA claims Six Mile Creek, on which the Johnsons built their dam, runs into Black Forks River which runs into the Green River which it calls a “navigable, interstate water of the United States.” But the Six Mile Creek was earlier diverted into a man-made canal for irrigation and none of its water ever reaches the river.

All of this is occurring under the current rules, which the EPA does not believe gives it enough control over every drop of water that conceivably might find its way into a rivulet somewhere.

The Nevada Conservation Commission voted to protest the new EPA rules. We call on other state and local government agencies and businesses to protest this power grab by filing comments with the EPA during the public comment period. — TM