From the National Association of Conservation Districts:
WASHINGTON, DC—September 25, 2015—National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) leadership met with representatives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today to express concerns on behalf of member conservation districts regarding the proposed “Waters of the U.S.” rule. Unfortunately representatives of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were unable to attend due to a scheduling conflict.
“We appreciate the opportunity to be at the table to represent conservation districts on this important issue,” said NACD President Earl Garber. “Our goal in this meeting was to seek clarity on the proposed rule, and to articulate NACD policy developed through our member districts. We strongly believe that the best the way to accomplish the goal of clean water is through a voluntary, incentive-based approach, including the expansion of EPA’s 319 and other federal and state programs.”
In today’s meeting, NACD stressed a number of key requests.
First and foremost, NACD leadership conveyed that the association’s policy does not support any increase in jurisdiction proposed by a final rule. NACD requested that EPA take additional time in drafting the rule, in order to incorporate more input from conservation districts and other local officials, and landowners and land-users at the local level.
NACD also asked that better definitions be used to achieve the outcome of clarity. “Clarity on how the rule could impact landowners is extremely important,” said NACD President-elect Lee McDaniel. “We are concerned that the rule’s terms and definitions do not appropriately reflect the landowners’ natural resource and operational diversity across the country, and could possibly have unintended consequences on districts’ ability to effectively work with landowners to implement voluntary conservation efforts at the local level.”
Additionally, NACD asked that EPA clearly articulate the expected outcome of the rule. EPA must keep in mind the implementation process throughout the writing of the rule, to ensure the rule—as drafted and implemented—will ultimately result in the expected and desired outcome, without impeding landowner involvement in locally-led natural resource conservation efforts that improve water quality.
“Representatives of the EPA clearly recognized the benefits of local districts utilizing the 319 program to get conservation on the ground, resulting in improved water quality in America,” said NACD Second Vice President Brent Van Dyke.
NACD plans to submit formal comments on the proposed rule by the deadline.