Northeast South Dakota farmers have two opportunities to learn more and make official comment to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on its proposed “Waters of the U.S.” rule. South Dakota Farm Bureau is hosting two meetings to provide details on the proposed new regulations and the practical implications they will carry for farmers, ranchers and other property owners:

Wednesday, Sept. 24 in Webster, S.D.
7:00 p.m. at Pereboom’s Café

Thursday, Sept. 25 in Hazel, S.D.
7:00 p.m. at the Hazel Community Center

The rule expands the scope of the Clean Water Act beyond the original scope of “navigable” waters, as passed by Congress in 1972 and upheld by two Supreme Court rulings since. The rule will place non-navigable and even temporary waters – such as ditches, low areas in fields, small sloughs or dry creek beds – under EPA’s jurisdiction. The volume of the water flow does not matter, nor does the duration or frequency. Even if the areas are dry the majority of the year, EPA may still be able to call them “waters.”

Farmers may be required to apply for permits to farm in these areas and could be subject to Clean Water Act liability if any discharges occur into these “waters.” Violations of the Clean Water Act carry a penalty of up to $37,500 per discharge per day. The EPA provides a few, narrow exemptions, but regular farming activities such as tilling, applying fertilizer, spraying pesticide, mowing hay and building fence are not exempt. The exemptions also do not apply unless you’ve been farming continuously since 1977.

The EPA is accepting public comment on its “Waters of the U.S.” rule through Oct. 21.

For more information:
SDFB's "Waters of the U.S." Action Center
American Farm Bureau's "Ditch the Rule" website
Article: "Water or Not: A Slew of New Regulations"