A bridge over the Gunnison River near the Morrow Point Dam

(Photo: Courtesy of Charles E. Carstensen)
The Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a proposed rule in March that is intended to clarify which waterways are protected under the Clean Water Act. The federal government says recent court rulings muddled up the legislation. 

“It does not protect any new types of waters that have not historically been covered under the Clean Water Act and is consistent with the Supreme Court’s more narrow reading of Clean Water Act jurisdiction,” the EPA says.

Yet the proposal is under attack by some the agriculture industry.  The National Milk Producers Federation and the American Farm Bureau say the proposal could threaten farming, ranching, homebuilding and energy production.

Colorado Farm Bureau president Don Shawcroft worries that the changes could apply to small streams or ditches that cross his ranch in the San Luis Valley.
 
"There are many places where that water is diverted into farmer lands from the Rio Grande in the San Luis Valley," he says. "Because there’s that nexus -- that connection -- then it is subject to all of the rules in the Clean Water Act, including whether I can put a fence across that ditch; whether I can use herbicides or pesticides. Those are the types of pertinent implications that greatly concern us.”
 
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has been visiting farms throughout the country in an effort to further dialogue about the proposal.
 
The EPA is taking comments on the proposed rule through October.