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Congress May Have Last Word on Water Rule

IPR file photo by Amy Mayer
Some farmers worry that the proposed Waters of the U.S. rule, which is now on hold, will require them to seek permits for work on their land.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's proposed change to the Clean Water Act, known as the Waters of the United States rule, is now on hold nationwide. But an Iowa senator says Congress may resolve the matter.

The rule is controversial because many in farm country, and their supporters, fear it would turn dry creek beds and small ponds into waterways subject to federal regulation and permitting. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which serves Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee, issued its opinion last Friday, extending to the rest of the country a stay that had been in effect in 13 states, following a different court ruling.

"We're going to pursue our amendments on appropriation bills to negate Waters of the U.S.," says Iowa Republican U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, "regardless of what the courts say, because you can't depend on the courts and the courts take a long time to reach finality."

Grassley has repeated called the proposed change a federal "power grab," but the EPA insists it needs to clarify what authority it has for certain wetlands and streams under the Clean Water Act.

Amy Mayer is a reporter based in Ames