The ownership of irrigation channels, such as lakes and rivers, is a constant debate across the country, especially as more and more states are being declared drought areas.
In Idaho, U.S. Rep. James L. Oberstar (Democrat) is fighting to reverse to U.S. Supreme Court cases that are confusing and “handcuff” the protection of America’s waters.
Since 2007 Oberstar has been working to change the Clean Water Restoration Act to take the phrase “navigable waters” out. Navigable waters is water that can be used for commerce or travel falling under the commerce clause. After the EPA began regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, he fears other groups will try to rule waterways under the Clean Water Act.
Oberstar feels that this change will improve conditions for farmers, consumers and government officials. Existing exemptions (farm or stock ponds, irrigation ditches and artificially irrigated areas) will stay exempt as well.
“Simply put, if it was not regulated before 2001, it will not be regulated with the enactment of this legislation,” he explained via a press release.
The Idaho Farm Bureau and Idaho Water Users Association oppose the changes because they want a change that will help farmers, not keep a tight restriction like the one that currently exists.
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