LIMA — Though not officially disseminated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, legislation released for peer review by the agency has Allen County officials standing up against the language.
According to a resolution passed by the commissioners, the U.S. EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers “are seeking a rule change to give the federal government more authority by expanding the definition of ‘navigable waters’ in the Clean Water Act” as well as “expanded their authority under the Clean Water Act to implement an onerous permit system that has forced delays as well as caused unnecessary additional expense to projects on the local level …”
‘Navigable waters’ is currently defined as a boat or other form of water transportation’s ability to navigate through a waterway, which is regulated by the EPA. The newly proposed language however, defines local reservoirs or runoff as ‘navigable water’ and would therefore have jurisdiction over them.
“They are trying to expand their regulatory reach of the waters of the United States to include almost any water that falls and becomes a puddle,” Commissioner Jay Begg said Thursday. “They don’t see it that way, but (the language) is written to possibly include that.”
Begg said that the U.S. EPA would also regulate “upland drainage” but never defines what the term means.
“We don’t have any upland drainage, and so that means that every drainage ditch, every mud puddle, every standing water park technically becomes ‘Waters of the U.S.’ and becomes under their regulation, and we oppose that,” he said.
A letter from Timothy Piper, Allen County engineer, sides with the commissioners. In a letter to the U.S. EPA, Piper said in reference to the Connectivity of Streams and Wetlands to Downstream Waters: A Review and Synthesis of the Scientific Evidence, another document released by the EPA, that it “lacks a common sense distinction” of various “storm water conveyances.”
Nathan Davis, assistant drainage engineer with the county engineer’s office, said that though the Clean Water Act has been in effect for many years, changes strengthening the legislation are relatively new.
“We just feel at this point they’re getting so far beyond their scope of what they’re actually trying to control that they’re taking the control from the local level and putting it into federal control,” Davis said.
Lima Mayor David Berger has opposed this issue for a while, saying the agency has taken an “unnecessary expansion of regulatory jurisdiction,” he said.
The stronger regulation is a motive of authority, Berger said.
“I think it has to do with the ability to impose the will of the agency beyond where they already are doing so,” Berger said.
The U.S. EPA has proposed passing legislation that would require various entities to submit permits for work, costing local groups money and time. Piper said other counties in the surrounding area also oppose the potential legislation.
“We are reviewing the proposed rule and intend to submit comments before the deadline on Oct. 20,” said Ohio EPA Media Coordinator Dina Pierce.