- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 27, 2015

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Wyoming officials say they’re disappointed with water quality regulations the federal government released Wednesday that would extend federal authority over smaller waterways such as tributaries and wetlands.

The final rules announced by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy specify that landowners would be forced to get federal permits under the Clean Water Act for actions that might pollute or disrupt the smaller waterways.

The rules face stiff opposition from Gov. Matt Mead and members of Wyoming’s congressional delegation. They warn the rules would extend federal influence over private farms and ranches.

Conservation groups, however, say the rules provide necessary clarity about federal authority and will help preserve clean water.

Mead issued a statement saying he’s frustrated the EPA didn’t work more closely with states on developing the rules, something he says the Clean Water Act requires.

“I am disappointed at the lack of consideration for the law and procedure,” said Mead, who submitted detailed comments on draft rules last year. “The administrator ignored requests to consult with states and develop a rule that complies with the law and protects water.”

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., is among a bi-partisan group of senators pushing legislation that would require the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to revise the rule to exclude isolated ponds and ditches that don’t have enough flow to carry pollutants to navigable waters.

Barrasso last month said his proposal would limit EPA authority to truly navigable waterways. “By striking the right balance, we’ll keep our waterways safe and pristine and allow them to be used as natural resources,” he said.

Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., issued a statement Wednesday saying the EPA rule is more about control than protection.

“This final rule is another attempt by the EPA to control our water and by extension state sovereignty, property rights, communities and individuals,” Enzi said.

Earlier this month, the U.S. House passed a bill that would order the EPA to withdraw the rule.

“It is simply incredible that the administration has managed to so thoroughly disregard the concerns of governors and stakeholders in what has been a broken public process,” Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., said Wednesday. “This is nothing short of a federal seizure of state waters, to the point where very few, if any, water bodies will be left for the states to manage.”

Jim Magagna, executive vice president of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, said he was disappointed that the EPA didn’t change the final rule based on comments his group and others submitted on the draft regulations.

Magagna said the rule specifies that it doesn’t apply to normal farming and ranching practices. However, he said it’s going to be extremely difficult for a typical farmer or rancher to determine whether the rule applies to them and what they want to do on their lands.

Amber Wilson, environmental quality advocate with the Wyoming Outdoor Council, said the rule brings necessary clarity about what the Clean Water Act protects. She said the rules will help states fulfill their responsibilities under the act. “So we’re really happy with it,” she said.

“We’re all in the West looking down the nose of water scarcity in the future,” Wilson said. “Wyoming is a headwater state, so this even further sort of underlines the importance of protecting Wyoming’s clean water, including tributaries and adjacent waters is certainly beneficial. We have a lot of them.”

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