March 2019 - 6

" The new regulation focuses on
CLEARER
WATERS
Proposed rule for
WOTUS defines legal
boundaries
The Modesto Irrigation District is a publicly-owned utility that provides irrigation water to about 3,100 agricultural customers who irrigate
close to 60,000 acres of permanent and annual crops in California's Central Valley, near Modesto. Photos: Lance Cheung, USDA
Natural Resources Conservation Service
By Stephen Kloosterman
Associate Editor
A proposed new definition of what legally
constitute Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS)
could clear up some longstanding issues
for specialty crop growers.
In December, the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) and Army
Corps of Engineers proposed a new
definition of WOTUS, or waters where
federal agencies would have authority.
The Fairfax, Virginia-based Irrigation
Association said the proposed rule, if
finalized, would define WOTUS as:
* Traditional navigable waters,
including the territorial seas.
* Tributaries that contribute perennial
or intermittent flow to such waters.
* Certain ditches.
* Certain lakes and ponds.
* Impoundments of otherwise
jurisdictional waters.
One of the traditional complaints of
growers had been cases of federal agencies
allegedly trying to reach for authority over
ditches caused by runoff and rain gullies.
waterways that hold water in a typical year.
This means that if a gully is normally dry,
the federal government would not regulate
this under the Clean Water Act, " said John
Farner, government and public affairs
director of the Irrigation Association.
Other waters that are not WOTUS,
according to the Environmental
Protection Agency, are:
* " Features that only contain water
during or in response to rainfall (e.g.,
ephemeral features). "
* Groundwater.
* " Many ditches, including most
roadside or farm ditches. "
* Prior converted cropland.
* Stormwater control features.
* Waste treatment systems.
Farner added that there were several
provisions in the rule that would benefit
specialty growers.
" First, access to water for irrigation and
how that irrigation is stored and applied
is important for all growers, " he said.
" Many growers that use drip irrigation
also pump groundwater and then store it
for future use. It's important that growers
are able to apply this water without
interference from the Clean Water Act.
This regulation gives farmers clarity - that
is the most important factor. "
Farner said the rule would help states
keep control of the irrigation districts
that fuel so much of specialty crops
agriculture in the western U.S.
" It's important that states keep control
of their water in the West, " he said.
6 | VegetableGrowersNews.com
http://www.VegetableGrowersNews.com

March 2019

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