From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
“What we’ve offered is a compromise position on legislation governing the jurisdictional waters of the United States. The question is: What type of projects need a 404 permit?” Aurora Water Director Mark Pifher told the Arkansas Basin Roundtable on Wednesday. Pifher has worked for the Colorado Water Congress and the Western Urban Water Coalition on proposed legislation by Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisc., and Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., which attempts to restore Clean Water Act guidelines to policies that were in place prior to a pair of United States Supreme Court decisions. The controversy centers on the definition of “navigable waters” and which federal laws need to be considered in issuing permits under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.
The Supreme Court cases are Rapanos v. the United States, decided in 2006, which involved filling in wetlands near ditches in Wisconsin; and the 2001 decision in the Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which centered on the city’s plans to create landfills on old gravel pits the government deemed wetlands. The effect of both decisions was to muddy the distinction of whether water projects in areas marginally connected to a watershed required a 404 permit. “After the decisions, Congress said, ‘We’re going to fix it,’ ” Pifher said.
The first attempt at fixing it caused an uproar because of a lengthy series of findings that some felt expanded the Clean Water Act into land use authority, international treaties and other areas of federal jurisdiction. Others objected to the removal of “navigable waters” from the language of the law, saying it broadened the federal authority…
“The Western Urban Water Coalition drafted a compromise that leaves in navigable waters, but defines what they are,” Pifher said. It also included exemptions for both municipal and agricultural systems in the West, and protects administration of water rights according to state laws.
More S. 787 coverage here.