Federal Water Bill will impact property and water rights

From Oregonians In Action,
Dave Hunnicutt,

The United States Senate is considering adoption of S 787, also known as the Clean Water Restoration Act, an innocent sounding name for a bill that would have significant impacts on all private property owners across the United States. If approved, S 787 would amend the Clean Water Act by extending the authority of the Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency, the two federal agencies charged with enforcing the Act.

Currently, the CWA regulates point source pollution discharges into “waters of the United States.” The United States Supreme Court has interpreted the phrase “waters of the United States” to exclude isolated waters, such as ponds, intermittent streams, and wetlands which do not have a “significant nexus” to a navigable waterway. These bodies of water are not regulated by the CWA.

S 787 would change the CWA to significantly broaden the scope of the bill.
If S 787 passes, it is hard to conceive of any kind of surface water source that would not be considered a “water of the United States.” This could potentially mean that all land use activities near any type of surface water would require a federal permit. It could also be far less draconian than that. But the possibility of the federal control which S 787 could create makes it a very dangerous bill, and one that every property owner, as well as every state and local government that wants to retain control over land use matters in their jurisdiction, should oppose.

This is not the kind of legislation that will help Oregon property owners or Oregon’s economy. The bill is scheduled for a vote in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee this Thursday, despite the fact that the Committee has not held one hearing on the bill. Senator Jeff Merkley is on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Please call Senator Merkley’s office and tell them that you oppose S 787 and that the federal government has no business regulating land use. That is an area for state, and preferably local, control. Demand that Senator Merkley call for hearings on S 787, and that he work closely with industry and property owners to understand that impacts that S 787 could have on small businesses and property owners.

Senator Merkley’s number is (202) 224-3753.

Dave Hunnicutt
Oregonians In Action

(503) 620-0258