« Karl's Comments

Depends on Interpretation

by Jeremy Lawrence

According to The Hagstrom Report, Gina McCarthy will travel to the Midwest to try to clarify what is covered under the proposed Waters of the U.S. rule. The Hagstrom Report is created and published by veteran agriculture reporter Jerry Hagstrom, and is well regarded in the world of U.S. Agriculture. Gina McCarthy is not yet a household name, but shes well on the way to becoming just that, certainly within farm and ranch households, and in a number of other places. She is the fairly recently appointed new Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Upon report of her nomination by the President, it seems to me, I can recall some pretty good press on her, from the Agricultural community. Then she goes and pulls a stunt like the extension of the EPA administering the Clean Water Act. Probably no one would dispute there was cause for adoption of the clean water act, and that EPA is a logical administrator - and Agriculture got along with it pretty well.

Then came the announcement of intent to significantly expand the meaning of waters. For years the consensus was that for EPA purposes, Waters meant NAVIGABLE waters. You know, lakes and streams and rivers and things like that supporting boats and barges and such.

Its interesting to me that EPA does not appear to be rewriting, or in some way expanding the Act. Its just reinterpreting the meaning of the existing language. The last time this happened, as I recall, it was another Washington figure challenging authorities as to what the meaning of is is.

The broad, wide-ranging assessment within the world of agriculture, as to the possibilities unveiled in this proposed new interpretation is that EPA will control any and all groundwater. That would include drainage ditches, low spots in farm fields where water collects for a few days after a heavy storm.

EPA appears to me to be acting much like the President. That is, it proposes to ignore reference to NAVIGABLE waters, which Congress included in the Clean Water Act to forestall just such a power grab/land grab, and just go with waters - virtually any and all surface water.

As for the Midwest visit, Acting Assistant Administrator for Water - hows that for a title - Nancy Stoner, says EPA is committed to listening to farmers and ranchers. And, she says, the proposed rule takes farmer/rancher feedback into account.

When I was young, my dad used to invite my commentary on some things; he would listen, and concede I had a point or two; later, in the U.S. Army, I could discuss issues with my superiors; they listened; still later, on the job, bosses would invite my input into contemplated changes. Just like EPA is doing...what I think is going to happen is in my personal experiences. EPA will listen, take into account - - and then do exactly whats been planned all along.

Karl Guenther is a retired Kalamazoo farm broadcaster and can be reached at khguenther@att.net . He is a member of Michigan Farm Bureau and an emeritus member of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting.