AgricultureNews

EPA, Army Announce Regional Roundtables on WOTUS

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of the Army (the agencies) called on communities to propose roundtables to provide input on the regional implications of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS). The regional roundtables will engage stakeholders representing diverse perspectives in meaningful dialogue to help inform the agencies’ work to develop an enduring definition of WOTUS that supports public health, environmental protection, agricultural activity, and economic growth.

“Crafting a lasting definition of WOTUS means that we must bolster our understanding of how different regions experience and protect our nation’s vital waters,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox. “These roundtables will provide a great opportunity to deepen our shared knowledge. They also represent one opportunity—in a suite of strategic tools—the agencies are utilizing to obtain input on this important topic.”

EPA and Army are announcing a process for stakeholders to submit nomination letters with a slate of participants to potentially be selected as one of ten geographically focused roundtables. EPA and Army are seeking to understand perspectives:

  • Highlighting how different regions are affected by the various WOTUS definitions.
  • Learning about stakeholder experiences, challenges, and opportunities under different regulatory regimes.
  • Facilitating engagement across diverse perspectives to inform the development of a durable and workable definition of WOTUS.
The agencies’ experience implementing previous definitions of WOTUS has highlighted the regional variability of water resources and the importance of close engagement with stakeholders to better understand their unique circumstances. The regional roundtables will provide opportunities to discuss geographic similarities and differences, particular water resources that are characteristic of or unique to each region, and site-specific feedback about implementation.
The agencies are inviting stakeholders to organize a targeted set of interested parties and regional representatives to participate in these discrete roundtables. Each nomination for a roundtable must include a proposed slate of participants representing perspectives of agriculture; conservation groups; developers; drinking water/wastewater management; environmental organizations; environmental justice communities; industry, and other key interests in that region. The agencies request that organizers submit their self-nomination letter via email not later than November 3, 2021.
For more information visit: www.epa.gov/wotus.
Background
The Clean Water Act prohibits the discharge of pollutants from a point source to navigable waters unless otherwise authorized under the Act. Navigable waters are defined in the Act as “the waters of the United States, including the territorial seas.” Thus, “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) is a threshold term establishing the geographic scope of federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. The term “waters of the United States” is not defined by the Act but has been defined by EPA and the Army in regulations since the 1970s and jointly implemented in the agencies’ respective programmatic activities.
On Jun 9, 2021, EPA and Army announced their intent to revise the definition of WOTUS to better protect our nation’s water resources. On July 30, 2021, EPA, Army, and USDA announced a series of engagement opportunities, including the agencies’ intent to convene ten regionally focused and inclusive roundtables during the fall and winter.
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