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Senate Hearing, EPA guidance provide examples Of Post-WOTUS era facing golf

by Government Affairs Team | Sep 21, 2020

On September 16, 2020, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing to discuss the ongoing implementation of the Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR), the successor to the 2015 Clean Water Rule (commonly known as “WOTUS” rule).  While some Senators on the committee spent time during the hearing attacking the legitimacy of the NWPR, it was notable that others, including witnesses, discussed its implementation.  

The NWPR has been in effect in all states except Colorado since June 22, 2020.  The agencies responsible for the rule, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps), have moved forward on rule implementation and issued four memos further defining jurisdictional waters, which can be found here

While GCSAA will continue to defend the repeal and replacement of WOTUS, we are also committed to working with decision-makers and other stakeholders to implement a successor rule that protects water while providing greater certainty for golf course management.

The three witnesses that spoke before the Committee were a soybean farmer from Iowa, a developer from Florida and a state water regulator from New Mexico.  The farmer noted that the Obama WOTUS rule would have given the federal government jurisdiction over 97% of the land across Iowa and required permits for activities like spraying weeds or installing fence.  The developer spoke of how one home building project was delayed for 10 years as they sought to obtain the necessary permit under the Clean Water Act.  Both supported the clarity of the NPWR, as can be found in its extending federal jurisdiction only over those wetlands that maintain a sufficient surface water connection to traditional navigable waters.  The developer also stressed the need for consistency in implementation between the EPA, Army Corps and their respective district and field offices.  GCSAA shares this concern.   The regulator from New Mexico discussed concerns of a gap between federal and state water regulators under the NWPR. 

GCSAA belongs to the Waters Advocacy Coalition (WAC), which supports the NWPR and the clarity it provides.  WAC drafted a letter of support for the committee hearing, which GCSAA co-signed.  It can be found here.

As discussed, the EPA and Army Corps are also moving forward with implementation, or guidance, documents for the NWPR.  While not binding, they help clarify which activities require a permit under the NWPR and which may be exempt.  Of specific interest to golf is how the NWPR would impact the construction or maintenance of irrigation and drainage ditches, which are vital to golf course operations.  GCSAA is working with its allies in the industry, including the American Society of Golf Course Architects and Golf Course Builders Association of America, to provide feedback to the agencies on how to best define these activities.   We are grateful to the ASGCA and the GCBAA for their expertise.    

 While court challenges to the NWPR continue, it remains the rule of the land for every state except Colorado.  And GCSAA will continue to advocate for the clarity needed for golf course superintendents.