OPINION: Rural America is dedicated to clean water
By Reps. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-02) and Dan Newhouse (WA-04)
Washington, April 14, 2021
This piece was originally published in the Des Moines Register on April 14, 2021.
In Iowa and in rural communities throughout the country, we recognize that farmers and ranchers are the original conservationists. They depend on clean air and water to sustain their livelihoods, and in many cases, they are leading efforts to improve our land and overall health of local ecosystems.
The Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR) was put in place in August 2020 to replace the Waters of the United States (WOTUS), a controversial and overreaching regulation that left our nation’s farmers and rural communities facing uncertainty. In turn, the NWPR balances our environmental protection efforts with the land rights of individuals and small businesses in rural communities throughout the United States – just as it always should have been.
The Clean Water Act gives the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers jurisdiction over “navigable waters” in the United States, but it leaves this definition up to the federal agencies to define. WOTUS drastically expanded this jurisdiction over bodies of water like streams and ponds – including those on private land – that the Clean Water Act never intended to regulate. Instead of burdening private citizens with confusing and ambiguous standards that could end up costing them thousands of dollars, the NWPR ensures that the federal government’s clean water efforts are focused on clearly-defined bodies of water.
Clean water is something all rural communities need, and Iowans of all walks of life have benefited from this revised rule, which provides much-needed certainty and predictability.
The NWPR ensures that farmers, ranchers, private landowners, and small businesses – vital sectors of our rural economies – are able to continue operating with a clear and concise direction and without the fear of the federal government’s overreach.
Empowering our state and local governments, communities, tribes, and businesses to work collaboratively with the federal government results in stronger environmental protections. These are the kind of partnerships we should be encouraging, and that is exactly what the NWPR does.
Not only will this rule result in stronger protections for clean water, but when business owners have clarity, it leads to job creation. We have seen this firsthand in Iowa. Senator Joni Ernst has been a strong leader in preserving the protections for Iowa industries under the NWPR, and we are proud to join her in these efforts as Members of the Congressional Western Caucus.
As representatives of rural communities in Congress, we understand that clean water protections are not contrary to economic development, and these efforts don’t have to punish those who live, work, and raise families throughout rural America.
Today, we introduced a resolution with the support of over 100 Members of Congress to reaffirm our commitment to clean water and to support the NWPR. This resolution is a strong demonstration of our continued environmental protection efforts as we work to ensure that families, farmers, ranchers, business owners, and individuals in rural communities continue to work together – alongside the federal government – toward responsible stewardship of our resources.
Our local communities are capable of making land use and water decisions far better than a bureaucrat thousands of miles away. We are committed to maintaining the Navigable Waters Protection Rule because we know that rural America is dedicated to clean water, and we will continue working to lead the way.