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Bill Goes Too Far

Written by Dennis Sun
    Well, spring is here. Maybe I should say, it’s supposed to be here. In Central Wyoming, along with other parts, we have not seen too many nights above freezing. The irrigation water is just starting to run, which is the good part. We look to have more runoff than we’ve had in a number of years.
      I drove through the Saratoga country a while back. The area was getting more snow and the irrigation ditches were still full of snow. The locals said the winter was brutal. On the other side of the mountain, in the Snake River country, I can’t print the words the locals who toughed it out used to describe it. Irrigation water comes with a price, doesn’t it?
    While we are visiting about water, we all need to keep in touch with the effort by some in Washington, D.C. to expand the scope of the Clean Water Act (CWA). Rep. James Oberstar, a Democrat from Minnesota who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, introduced legislation called the Clean Water Restoration Act of 2007. So far the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, chaired by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), has held one hearing in Washington, D.C. on the legislation. In short, what the bill does is remove the term “navigable waters” from the CWA, making all rivers, streams, irrigation ditches and even mud puddles, fall under federal jurisdiction.
    So, I can see I just ruined your week, didn’t I? It is a serious issue especially for Wyoming where we are looking at finding ways to store more water. Even though Wyoming owns its water, I imagine this action could result in more restrictions if it’s met with approval.
    Rep. Oberstar says the Supreme Court rulings of June 2006 against the Corps of Engineers in their action against two landowners weakened America’s water protection laws. Here in Wyoming, since the CWA was passed in 1972 and conservation districts have devoted countless hours to water quality, we’ve made some true progress. In its 36-year history the CWA has been strengthened, but those efforts haven’t gone overboard like the one being proposed now.
    At the hearing on April 9, Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.) stated, “This bill, as currently written, will expand federal jurisdiction authority in a way that pushes the outer limits of Congress’s constitutional role. If Congress is to amend the Clean Water Act, any changes must provide clarity and reduce lawsuits. This bill does neither. It will not curtail litigation, but rather increase it, as stakeholders seek legal clarity on what exactly are the outer limits of Congressional authority. We should not propose and pass legislative language that increases uncertainty and increases an already litigious environment.”
    Most of us in Wyoming really get shook up over more federal control. In a state with 48 percent federal lands, we sure don’t need to turn over our water and additional rules to the feds. The good new is that none of our congressional delegation supports the bill. We need to support them and ask friends in neighboring states to help defeat this erroneous legislation.
Dennis