Along with eight other states, Georgia has reportedly joined in on a lawsuit filed against the Environmental Protection Agency over a new clean water rule which would give the government authority to regulate tributaries leading to rivers and streams covered by the Clean Water Act.
The latter, as readers may know, covers all navigable waters, but the new rule would extend the scope of regulation even further to water sources that feed navigable waters. The rationale behind the extension is that, since tributaries feed into navigable waterways, they should be protected from pollution the same way.
The rule has been heavily criticized by developers and farmers on the grounds that it would prevent them from fertilizing near their drainage ditches without a federal permit, which would cost time and money. The final version of the rule does keep in place established exceptions for farming activities.
According to the EPA, “routine ongoing farming activities” do not require permits, provided the farming activity does not involve converting an agricultural wetland into a non-wetland or beginning agricultural production on a wetland. The litigation, for its part, has been criticized by those who point out that the new rule only restores protections that have previously existed under the Clean Water Act.
For farmers, knowing when a permit is required for the discharge of dredged or fill material into navigable waters is not always clear. To avoid penalties, it is important for farmers to have proper guidance. That guidance can be found with the EPA, or with an attorney who is knowledgeable about the law.