EPA Draft Report on Water Connectivity Under Review by Scientific Advisory Board
The Environmental Protection Agency has convened a Scientific Advisory Board to conduct a peer review of the Water Body Connectivity Report draft released by the agency in September. The panel is assessing the scientific validity of the report - which the EPA will use as a base for their rule defining waters of the United States. The rule seeks to expand the agency's regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act. National Corn Growers Association Production and Stewardship Action Team Chair Don Glenn says the debate will have real-world implications for farmers in their fields. He notes farmers take their responsibility to care for natural resources very seriously - and depend on clean water to maintain thriving operations. To be effective - Glenn says the rules need to be practical and have a basis in credible science. He says the review that started this week has proceeded in a constructive - yet inquisitive manner - that NCGA hopes will lead to findings that positively impact the final rule. NCGA previously encouraged the board to carefully consider the legal and policy context of the physical challenges of identifying waters of the United States and then offer to EPA recommendations about the appropriate scientific context and the questions to be asked to properly address those challenges.
In its submitted comments to the EPA - NCGA outlined the positive and potentially flawed portions of the draft report. The association urged the Scientific Advisory Board to consider a handful of crucial concerns. According to NCGA - there is a marked lack of science that allows the report to guide decisions as to what is or what is not a water of the United States. The group says the report doesn't address the problem of when and where and how there might be a significant nexus between remote drainage features or isolated waters like wetlands and the downstream navigable waters or their tributaries. Further - NCGA commented that the report doesn't make critical distinctions between drainage features and streams or other waterways - therefore implying that essentially every drainage feature in agricultural areas could merit designation as a water of the United States - which carries with it a host of mandatory measures under the CWA.
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