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November 2019

Water Rule Repealed, What’s Next?

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By Ronnie Miles
Director of Advocacy, NGCOA

On Sept 12, the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Army published a final rule to repeal the 2015 Clean Water Rule: Definition of “Waters of the United States.” In its official public notice, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler stated, “Today’s Step 1 action fulfills a key promise of President Trump and sets the stage for Step 2 - a new WOTUS definition that will provide greater regulatory certainty for farmers, landowners, home builders, and developers nationwide.”

During his comments, Assistant Secretary of the Army of Civil Work added, “The final rule repeals the 2015 Rule and restores the previous regulatory regime exactly how it existed prior to finalization of the 2015 Rule.”

The next step in the two-step process intended to review and revise the definition of “Waters of the United States” consistent with the Executive Order signed on Feb. 28, 2017, “Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism and Economic Growth by the Reviewing the “Waters of the United States” federally regulated under the Act. On Feb. 14, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of the Army (Army) proposed a revised definition of “waters of the United States,” which would delineate the scope of federal regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act in a clear and understandable way.

The golf industry supports the CWA, opposed the 2015 rules and supports efforts by the EPA and the Corps to replace it with a rule that both protects the principles of cooperative federalism and enables industry/responsible parties to proactively apply sound science practices to their land management activities that protect the environment without impacting business, jobs and communities. Our industry has long-standing support through university-based agronomic and environmental research that has developed best management practices for design, construction and golf course management.

On April 15, NGCOA along with GCSAA, PGA, CMAA, NCA, ASGCA and GCBAA under the We Are Golf banner, shared our comments with the administration supporting the proposed rule. We shared our belief that golf courses are designed as a water conveyance system in order to best manage surface water flow from stormwater, flood or irrigation flow through either natural or man-made conveyances. These waters are conveyed, stored and/or utilized for irrigation or filtering purposes. They also are designed to collect runoff from adjacent properties for flood control and pollution prevention. Courses use this runoff as an irrigation source as well. They also use reclaimed water to help water purveyors manage excess recycled water. The course irrigates with this water providing filtration and an economical solution for disposal of reclaimed water.

Water will remain a critical issue for our industry. Many, especially in the media, have the perception that this new policy is being developed to benefit our president’s golf course properties. This issue is much greater than the few courses he owns. But hopefully, during this process, we have educated many on the benefits our industry provides in protecting our waters and the greater environment. We encourage members to help share this message within your communities. We support sound environmental management policies but they must be clear and support the needs of both the business community and the public.

It is expected that a new WOTUS Rule will be finalized before the end of the year. Until then owners and operators across the United States have a common regulation to follow, the Clean Water Act.

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