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EPA tells Arizona: Not a drop is yours!

Dan Bell

Dan Bell

Once again the bright lights are shown on the caricature of the federal government regulating everything from cradle to grave – only this time it is from stock pond to ditch.

With the Environmental Protection Agency’s new rule to expand the definition of the “Waters of the United States” to the stock ponds on our ranches and to the ditches on our farms by removing the word “navigable” from these Clean Water Act regulations, we experience Big Brother’s appetite for controlling everything – from your smartphone texts, to your Internet service – to our stock ponds.

Arizona’s cattle ranching families rely on clean sources of water for our animals and to nurture our land. In fact, we support efforts to keep our water clean and we spend a great deal of time and resources working to enhance our water resources.

This flawed EPA rule will only hamper our efforts by demanding and increasing permit requirements from a system that already has a backlog of thousands of permits. The EPA’s insatiable appetite to control everything in our lives is beginning to make it another 3-letter acronym associated with failure and abuse – like the IRS.

Given our interest in “Clean Water,” we asked the EPA to withdraw this rule and convene a stakeholder process to develop a workable solution and clarity to the process so it did not expose our stock ponds, ditches and other areas, where water might collect on our ranches, to an expensive and inefficient federal permitting system. They did not. Instead we just got a retread of a previously flawed regulatory process. This is unfortunate.

Maybe the greatest failure of this new rule is: It eviscerates the cooperative federalism concept which is the crux of the original Clean Water Act – usurping Arizona’s rights to regulate its own water. As citizens we should demand a better process, as taxpayers we should demand a more acceptable program and as Arizonans we should demand our voice to be heard…. Because for sure – we all demand clean water!

– Dan Bell is president of the Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association.

One comment

  1. John Newport, PhD

    Dan, in your role as president of the Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association I definitely respect your concerns regarding ensuring effective and fair usage of Arizona’s limited water supply. However, as a public health professional I have concerns regarding maintaining into perpetuity our current allocation of land and water to raising cattle and alfalfa, a basic cattle food, as we move forward in this era of increasingly limited water resources.

    As I document in my recent Capitol Times post “Immediate action needed to avert water crisis” the entire southwest is in dire straits due to continued depletion of the Colorado River. Indeed Lake Mead, our nation’s largest water reservoir, is only 38 percent full and Central Arizona Project (CAP) officials predict that recent sharp decreases in runoff into their section of the Colorado River could precipitate a cutback in CAP water deliveries as early as next year.

    In addition, a recent ProPublica article “Holy Crop: How federal dollars are financing the water crisis in the west” documents the devastating impact on the rapidly declining water supply throughout our entire region brought about by the federal government’s perverse (by present day standards) policies of over-subsidizing both cotton and alfalfa farming. In short, our state faces an imminent water shortage and we must all pull together to ensure continuation of an adequate water supply to meet both our near term needs and the needs of future generations.

    John Newport, PhD

    PS: The ProPublica article is also available in the Opinion section of the AZ Capitol Times.

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