Rollback of Obama-era WOTUS rule is welcome change

Friday, January 24, 2020

Nebraskans are in a good position to see past the spin applied to the Trump administration’s move to change Obama-era changes to the Clean Water Act.

The president has been promising the changes since he came into office, lifting restrictions that could hinder agriculture and economic development throughout the “flat-water state.”

The Clean Water Act of 1972 originally protected “navigable” waters from pollution, but over the years, the courts and Army Corps of Engineers interpreted the act differently in various regions of the country.

In 2015, the Obama administration issued the Waters of the United States rule, extending Environmental Protection Agency authority for land within 1,500 feet of a 100-year flood plain.

That covers much of the most desirable land in the state. Strictly enforced, WOTUS would entangle any proposed development along the Platte Rivers and Interstate 80, for example, in federal red tape.

This is not to say Nebraskans don’t care about water. McCook residents pay millions of dollars to remove nitrates from our drinking water, and we’ve got the scars, inflicted by Kansas in the courts, to prove we know the value of water.

Sen. Deb Fischer, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and Gov. Pete Ricketts both lauded the Trump administration’s actions, saying it scaled back federal overreach and respected states’ rights.

"Bureaucrats have no place regulating puddles in Nebraska, and the Obama administration was wrong for trying this nonsense. No one cares more about land and water resources than our farmers and ranchers. Nebraskans feed the world and are on the leading edge of conservation,” said Sen. Ben Sasse in a release.

The final rule will be published in the Federal Register in the next few days and become effective 60 days after that.

Water has always been a vital factor in Nebraska’s economy and quality of life, and no one has more of an interest in preserving its quality and quantity.

As for regulating its proper use, the ball is in our court, where it belonged all along.

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