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Letter to the Editor - Senator Eli Bebout

Written by Eli Bebout

To the Editor:

Water is the property of the state. The water of all natural streams, springs, lakes or other collections of still water, within the boundaries of the state, are hereby declared to be the property of the state. -Constitution of the State of Wyoming, Article 8 Section 1

Wyoming is a headwater state, and our water is important to the entire nation. We have waters that feed to the west and to the south, touching both the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean. Water is also incredibly important to our way of life. We place a high value on water not just for personal sustenance, but for our agriculture, ranching and industrial industries.

State sovereignty is the backbone of the United States of America. The current administration’s attitude of “Washington knows best” has pervaded their policies again and again and permeated their treatment of states. They have reduced mineral royalty payments to states, mandated changes to wildlife management strategies and now they are seeking to broaden the scope of the Clean Water Act by redefining “waters of the United States.”

Water has always been a resource within state control. The Wyoming State Constitution highlights the need for states to control their own water to ensure the interests of all involved are equally guarded. With the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972, water within the state’s borders, not considered “navigable,” was left to state management. The purpose of the Act was to protect the quality of interstate waters. It is now morphing into another tool for the federal government to impose new regulatory burdens across the landscape.  

The “waters of the United States” is a proposed rule to expand the federal regulatory and permitting power of the EPA by redefining which waterways they can control under the Clean Water Act. The states were not consulted or asked for input when building this rule. The EPA used public comments from a previous proposal to help outline this initiative, but did not complete any further due diligence.

This rule has the potential to affect tributaries, riparians, flood plains, small streams and even dry stream beds. It would create over-burdensome regulation and permitting on stormwater management systems and industrial ponds. This rule would place the burden of compliance on landowners, whose ditches and creeks currently fall outside federal jurisdiction, making them prove that they are in accordance with federal standards.

States should have been consulted early and often for such an expansive rule change to the Clean Water Act. This is a prime example of federal overreach. It is an overreach through rules and regulations. The EPA could not get this proposed rule passed through Congress, so instead of relying on the democratic process, they are looking to change the definition of waterways and, therefore, giving themselves unlimited control over Wyoming water.

We applaud Governor Mead for taking the initiative and developing a water strategy. Outlining initiatives for water management, development, conservation and restoration shows our commitment to Wyoming water and the blueprint of how we intend to continue managing it. As the Legislature, we have appropriated $9 million for constructing and upgrading water development projects. Water is an area where we have, and will continue, to jealously guard Wyoming’s interest.

Wyoming is fighting regulatory overreach by managing our waters effectively, working with the Governor to ensure that his proposed water strategy continues to move Wyoming water forward, and pushing back against the federal government to ensure we can manage Wyoming water with Wyoming solutions. Multiple agencies within the state and the region, including the Governor’s office, have sent comment letters to the EPA calling for the withdrawal of this rule.   

Wyoming constantly clashes with the federal government for the ability to solve Wyoming problems with Wyoming solutions. States have the right to regulate the water within their boundaries and we will continue to fight for Wyoming water, Wyoming’s life blood. 

Sincerely,

 Senator Eli Bebout, Majority Floor Leader, and

 Representative Tim Stubson, Speaker Pro Tempore

Co-chairs of the Select Federal Natural Resource Management Committee