NCBA Testifies Against Clean Water Act

US – Arizona ranchwer, Jim Chilton, testified today on behalf of National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and the Public Lands Council (PLC) during a House Committee on Small Business hearing on the Clean Water Restoration Act (CWRA).
calendar icon 27 July 2009
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Chilton, whose family has been in the cattle business for over 120 years, explained how the CWRA would threaten farmers and ranchers, in addition to small businesses, small communities, forestry, mining, and manufacturing on private and federally-managed lands.

“This is essentially a limitless national land and water use control effort that will regulate every activity in a wet area in the nation,” said Chilton. “It’s nothing more than a ‘nice-sounding’ name which masks an economically and culturally devastating power grab, flagrantly violating both the spirit and the words of the U.S. Constitution.”

According to a news report from the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, the proposed Act—which passed out of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee last month—would drastically expand the Clean Water Act (CWA), giving the Army Corps of Engineers (“Corps”) and the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) control over all watersheds in the nation, and all “activities affecting these waters.”

"Since all land in the nation is within a watershed, it means that the Corps and EPA would have land-use control over farmers’ and ranchers’ property and other businesses not currently under the jurisdiction of the CWA. This new Federal jurisdiction would include hundreds of millions of isolated, intrastate pools, stock water ponds, springs, small lakes, depressions filled with water on an intermittent basis, drainage and irrigation ditches, irrigated areas that would otherwise be dry, sloughs, and damp places located on farms and ranches that have no nexus with any navigable waters", reports the NCBA.

Under the Act, family ranchers and farmers may be required to obtain permits from the EPA or Corps before conducting common, everyday operations, like watering their cattle or farming their land. The federal government is already struggling to handle a backlog of 15,000 to 20,000 existing section 404 permit requests. According to the U.S. Supreme Court, the average applicant for an individual Clean Water Act permit spends 788 days and $271,596 in complying with the current process, and the average applicant for a nationwide permit currently spends 313 days and $28,915 - not counting the substantial costs of mitigation or design changes (Rapanos, 447 U.S. at 719, plurality opinion).

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