It is doubtful that the new Navigable Waters Protection Rule will provide any benefits to California’s farmers and ranchers. Because of the rules that the State Water Board established last year, California is unlikely to be affected by the recent federal regulation that replaces the Waters of the U.S. rule.
“The rules that are in place for California are certainly far and away beyond the rule that was adopted at the federal level,” said Mike Wade, Executive Director of the California Farm Water Coalition. “We’re not going to – I don’t believe – see much if any relief in California from the revisions at the federal level because we’re already living under a more strict definition of Waters of the State, as it’s known.”
New regulations that were adopted last April that requires permitting for discharges of dredged and fill material and provides a broad definition of what is to be considered a wetland. Wade noted that the Waters of the State rule does not contain some of the exclusions that were included in the new Navigable Waters Protection Rule. The process for establishing a more stringent water rule for California began long before President Donald Trump took office with the promise to help ease federal regulations. “We go back probably 15 years where some of these rules were being promulgated, but it makes it much more difficult to farm in our state,” said Wade.
The federal rule was welcome news for much of the U.S., bringing some much-needed clarity to water rules as it pertains to wetlands and what is considered a navigable waterway. The new rule also details what types of activities require federal permits and which do not. “It more clearly defines areas that were kind of a gray area in the past and helps people know exactly where they stand in terms of waters of the United States,” Wade noted.
Regulatory issues related to water have become even more prominent as the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) begins to be implemented. Wade noted that the guidelines provided by the Waters of the State rule may come into conflict with the need to recharge groundwater resources. “I believe that California’s regulations intended to protect wetlands may in fact create problems for our efforts to achieve SGMA goals,” said Wade.
Listen to the interview below.