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WASHINGTON – Upon the Biden administration’s move to formally repeal the commonsense Trump-eraNavigable Waters Protection rule, U.S. Senators Jim Risch and Mike Crapo (both R-Idaho) today condemned the return of a standard that will result in severe uncertainty and costly red tape for Idaho’s water users. 

“The Obama administration’s WOTUS rule declared temporary puddles would be held to the same federal standards as major navigable waterways. Regulating a ditch as if it’s a major river would be laughable were it not for its crippling effect on Idaho’s farmers, ranchers, and landowners,” said Risch. “The Navigable Waters Protection rule signaled a restoration of common sense. Rolling back this policy means more red tape, confusion, regulatory costs, and an even more bloated and powerful federal government.”

“Today’s announcement from the EPA will only bring further regulatory uncertainty to Idaho’s farmers, ranchers and water users,” said Crapo. “The Trump-era National Water Protection Rule clearly delineated federal jurisdiction while respecting states’ rights. Under the guise of returning to the pre-2015 standard, the Biden Administration will likely implement an even stricter standard than the Obama Administration. Effective and environmentally-sound water quality management policies are best decided by state and local on-the-ground experts.”

Background: In 2015, the Obama administration finalized a rule that defined all bodies of water, including ephemeral streams created by rainfall, as subject to federal government regulation. This created significant confusion and burdensome red tape for Idaho’s agriculture industry and many others. The Idaho Delegation had been a key proponent of a rewrite of the rule to more responsibly reflect the role of state and local jurisdictions.

The Trump administration proposed a rule to replace the Obama administration’s 2015 WOTUS rule with a new rule that provided much-needed predictability and certainty for farmers by establishing clear and reasonable definitions of what qualifies as a “water of the United States.” The new Navigable Waters Protection Rule was finalized last year. In August, Risch and Crapo introduced legislation to codify the Navigable Waters Protection Rule.

On day one of his administration, President Biden signed an executive order that would roll back the Trump administration’s executive order, which began the process of rescinding Obama’s WOTUS rule.

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