Those who call Central Washington home know that clean, available water is vitally important to our economy and our region. Whether it is maintaining the health of the Columbia River, keeping the irrigation flowing to our farms, or just piping it into our homes to drink or brush our teeth, clean water is truly the economic lifeblood of Central Washington.
When Congress passed the Clean Water Act in 1972, the intent was clear: the federal government, in cooperation with the states, should ensure our water quality is protected for current and future generations. Specifically, the law stated that the federal government would have jurisdiction over navigable waters, like the Columbia River, while states would retain control over everything else.
There is no question that we must ensure the highest quality of our nation’s drinking water. However, over time, the Clean Water Act has been the subject of much abuse by those who would use it for their own special interests, including limiting private property rights and economic development. Some within Congress and the Obama administration have attempted to expand the role of the federal government in regulating non-navigable waterways, which creates even more opportunities for abuse.
Despite the Supreme Court repeatedly recognizing that the authority of the federal government is limited to only regulating “navigable waters,” the Obama administration’s Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are moving forward with a proposed rule to drastically expand the scope of the Clean Water Act. This controversial regulation would place nearly every body of water from irrigation canals, to small ponds, to seasonal mud puddles under the unlimited authority of the federal government. These actions will have serious impacts on hardworking Americans struggling to provide for their families, seniors, low-income households and small business owners.
The EPA’s overreaching authority is nothing more than another dramatic expansion of federal government control over Americans’ livelihoods and their private property. It makes sense for the federal government to oversee major waterways where boat navigation occurs. However, sending federal bureaucrats onto our farms and into our backyards extends far beyond the reach of where the federal government belongs.
This is yet another example of the Obama administration trying to go around Congress and change the law with the purpose of intruding even further into the everyday lives of hardworking Americans. This is why I joined a bipartisan group, representing the majority of the members of the House of Representatives, in writing a letter to EPA and the Corps opposing the proposed regulation and asking that it be withdrawn. Jobs and the very viability of our farms and small businesses across rural America will be put at risk if this massive power grab succeeds.
Doc Hastings represents Central Washington in the U.S. House.