Key highlights from August 15, 2014 briefing in New Orleans, La.:
• "When you look at, now, the redefinition to include tributaries, significant nexus, ditches, it is a clear expansion of federal authority. Our farmers are very concerned about what we do not know, that as we change our practices to meet the greater needs and become more efficient, then those practices would be subject to Clean Water Act, a Section 404 permit. That takes time and takes money. Now it's every ditch - not a natural body of water - every ditch is now going to be under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act." - Mike Strain, Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture & Forestry
• "Mr. Vandersteen, EPA claims that they're pushing this rule to foster greater regulatory certainty. What's your reaction to that claim?" - Sen. David Vitter
o "Senator, I have no idea that EPA and the Corps would think that this would give certainty to forest landowners. It's flabbergasting that something as broad as what they're proposing, something that gives the impression that there are only a few ‘normal' forestry activities to an agency that has been partnering with us in a cooperative, conservation effort that now will be the regulatory body to decide what is ‘normal activity' could be anything certain to help forest landowners and people in agriculture do what they're supposed to do - to protect the environment while producing a crop. That statement is - to me - so false and so filled with holes that it will not hold water." - Buck Vandersteen, Executive Director of the Louisiana Forestry Association
• Senator Vitter expressed concern the proposed "Waters of the United States" rule could exacerbate issues relating to the Army Corps' of Engineers' controversial Modified Charleston Method for mitigation. The response he received confirms that, if the proposed rule is finalized, the Modification Charleston Method will pose even more problems for Louisiana's economy than it does today:
o "I think the Modified Charleston Method could have a real crippling effect. [For one project where the Modified Charleston Method applied,], the ratio went from 1.3:1 to 4:1 in terms of the amount of wetlands that needed to be mitigated, which quadrupled the cost of the project and rendered it economically unviable. So that method alone will cripple quite a bit of projects." - Steven C. Serio, Attorney, Fishman Haygood Phelps Walmsley Willis & Swanson, L.L.P.
In late March 2014, the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) announced the proposed "waters of the United States" rule, which defines various terms, including "tributary," "adjacent waters," and "neighboring waters" that would fall under federal authority under the Clean Water Act. These definitions greatly expand the federal government's power over ditches, floodplains, and other areas, including on private property, through which water may flow. Vitter has been reviewing the expected impacts of the proposed rule.
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