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Clean Water Restoration Act

I want to bring to your attention information we received from NACo regarding movement of S. 787, the Clean Water Restoration Act (CWRA). The CWRA proposes to eliminate the word “navigable” from the definition of “waters of the U.S.” within the Clean Water Act (CWA), essentially placing all bodies of water or “perceived” bodies of water under federal jurisdiction — even those waters traditionally under state authority. The bill goes on to include “activities affecting these waters.” While the intent may be to limit direct and non-direct pollution sources going into major waterways, it could be interpreted quite differently to allow the federal regulation of any and all activities that “affect” waters. It is possible that a non-direct source 10’s to 100’s of miles away could be regulated, even though there is no direct hydrological connection. This definition does not exist anywhere in current law or regulation.

According to NACo staff, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee is expected to take up the measure in May. NACo and NACE oppose any effort to remove the term “navigable” from the definition of “waters of the U.S.” in the CWA. In 2007, NACE and NACo opposed a similar bill, HR 2421.

Counties that are opposed to this proposed definition of “waters of the U.S.” are encouraged to express their concerns with the offices of their Senators. It also wouldn’t hurt to contact your House delegation as this issue will eventually be taken up there as well.

Regards, Tony Giancola
NACE Executive Director

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