WASHINGTON - Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., released a statement Thursday applauding the Environmental Protection Agency for repealing the Obama-era rules concerning "Waters of the United States" (WOTUS).
Walden said he has heard concerns from many farmers and ranchers across Oregon that the 2015 Obama administration WOTUS ruling was overreaching and would negatively impact their work.
The old WOTUS ruling greatly expanded the EPA's jurisdiction and control over local land use decisions. Under the 2015 ruling, the EPA could regulate bodies of water such as irrigation and drainage ditches on farmland, causing uncertainty for farmers who potentially faced litigation or onerous permit requirements under the previous "Waters of the United States" definition, the congressman said.
"Farmers and ranchers across Oregon have expressed their concerns with the overreaching Obama-era definition of Waters of the United States (WOTUS)," Walden said. "They worried that the intermittent stream or irrigation ditch would be subject to burdensome new federal regulation. The EPA's release of the final rule, which abolishes the Obama-era rule, is welcome news across rural Oregon. I applaud President Trump and his administration for listening to our farmers and ranchers and acting to repeal the flawed original rule and appropriately redefine Waters of the United States."
The administration's new and final rule abolishes the previous heavy-handed WOTUS rules and replaces it with improved guidelines that take into consideration the well-being of rural Americans, Walden said.
The Oregon Farm Bureau issued a statement with similar views about Thursday's action:
"Oregon Farm Bureau applauds the repeal and replacement of the WOTUS rule. The WOTUS rule enacted by the previous administration exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers' jurisdiction, could have required farmers to get permits just to work on their fields, and would have opened farmers up to costly citizen suit litigation.
"Oregon already has strong water quality and fill-and-removal regulations. The rule proposed by the previous administration would not add anything, it would only give litigious environmental groups the ability to bring citizen suits against farmers who are already working to improve and protect water quality. We think enforcement is best left to the state, and the rule enacted by the current administration will help accomplish that goal.
"Oregon's farmers and ranchers have always been proactive about protecting water quality. We supported Oregon's agricultural water quality program, which was one of the first in the nation and has done a great job of protecting water quality in our state. Farmers and ranchers have also invested millions of dollars in on-the-ground work to help protect water quality on agricultural lands. OFB believes in working collaboratively with partners to achieve water quality goals, not in allowing farmers to be subjected to costly litigation with no measurable change in water quality."