Lawmakers are working to block an unprecedented power grab by the Environmental Protection Agency to use the Clean Water Act (CWA) and control land alongside ditches, gullies and other ephemeral spots by claiming the sources are part of navigable waterways.
These temporary water sources are often created by rain or snowmelt, and would make it harder for private property owners to build in their own backyards, grow crops, raise livestock and conduct other activities on their own land, lawmakers say.
“Never in the history of the CWA has federal regulation defined ditches and other upland features as ‘waters of the United States,’” said Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), the ranking committee member, and Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio), chairman of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment.
“This is without a doubt an expansion of federal jurisdiction,” the lawmakers said in a May 31 letter to House colleagues.
The unusual alliance of the powerful House Republicans and Democrat to jointly sponsor legislation to overturn the new guidelines signals a willingness on Capitol Hill to rein in the formidable agency.