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Published on December 19, 2009 3:01AM

Last changed on March 11, 2010 3:49AM

Letter: Restoration Act threatens states' sovereignty

Capital Press

As wrangling continues in Congress over expanding federal power over all U.S. waters, members of the Senate and House Western Caucuses have reiterated their opposition to the proposed Clean Water Restoration Act.

Sending a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., 11 senators and 17 congressmen -- all Republicans -- stated the Restoration Act poses serious threats to states' sovereignty and rural economies.

At the heart of their opposition is the bill's intent to update the Clean Water Act by removing the word "navigable" from waters under federal regulation.

"The CWRA seeks to expand the jurisdictional sweep of the Clean Water Act, introduced in 1972, by granting the federal government authority over all U.S. waterways," the letter stated.

Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, said he is deeply concerned the legislation would restrict farmers' and ranchers' ability to make decisions about their own property.

"The Clean Water Restoration Act is a big government land grab, pure and simple. And it is being forced on the agriculture community by people who don't know the first thing about crops or cows," he said.

The Western legislators contend there is overwhelming opposition to the bill in their home states, citing concerns over job loss and regulatory overreach.

"This legislation would grant the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers virtually unlimited regulatory control over all wet areas within a state. This bill attempts to trump state's rights and preempts state and local governments from making local land and water use decisions. ... Commercial and residential real estate development, agriculture, transmission, transportation and mining will all be effected. Thousands of jobs will be lost," they stated in the letter.

The expansion of federal power over the nation's waterways will pave the way for complete federal regulation of every water resource, from puddles to playas, they contend.

Simpson's counterpart in the Senate, Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, is so concerned he put a hold on the bill on June 18, the day it passed in the Senate Committee on Environmental Public Works.

"By expanding the reach of the federal government beyond its proper role, we threaten state sovereignty and private property rights," he said last week. "Stripping states of their authorities ... tramples on state and private property rights and will simply add more responsibilities to an overextended federal government."

Crapo said he has grave reservations about altering the scope of the Clean Water Act and vowed to oppose it in the Senate.

"I intend to use every tool and privilege afforded to slow or stop this ill-conceived attack on Idaho's sovereignty over managing its waters."

The Western legislators said they oppose any attempt to move the legislation, either as a stand-alone bill or as an attachment to a bill in either house.

"More specifically, we cannot imagine any bill so important that we could support it with the Clean Water Restoration Act attached," they stated.

The signers

The following Representatives and Senators participated in the letter:

Senators: John Barrasso (Wyo.), Bob Bennett (Utah), Mike Crapo (Idaho), John Ensign (Nev.), Mike Enzi (Wyo.), Orrin Hatch (Utah), Mike Johanns (Neb.), Jon Kyl (Ariz.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), James Risch (Idaho), Pat Roberts (Kan.), John Thune (S.D.)

House Members: Rob Bishop, (Utah), Jason Chaffetz (Utah), Mike Coffman (Colo.), Michael Conaway (Texas), Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Dean Heller (Nev.), Wally Herger (Calif.), Doug Lamborn (Colo.), Cynthia Lummis (Wyo.), Tom McClintock (Calif.), Denny Rehberg (Mont.), John Shadegg (Ariz.), Mike Simpson (Idaho), Lee Terry (Neb.), Mac Thornberry (Texas), Greg Walden (Ore.), Don Young (Alaska)


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