Video: Farmer from Colorado Supports Clean Water — Rocky Mountain Farmers Union

Here’s the release from the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union:

In advance of the October 18 anniversary of the Clean Water Act, the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) today released a new video in support of the proposed Waters of the U.S. clean water rule. The video stars fifth-generation San Luis Valley rancher and farmer Alfonso Abeyta, and uses with permission of the band R.E.M., their song, “Cuyahoga,” about the Ohio river that caught fire (although not the first time) in 1969. The fire and subsequent Time magazine coverage motivated Congress to pass the Clean Water Act in 1972.

“That’s why it puzzles me when some politicians in Washington don’t want to protect America’s streams and wetlands,” Abeyta says in the video. “You can’t grow food without water. You can’t live without water. Without water, nothing survives. I’m not thinking about myself; I’m thinking about my grandkids. I want them to be healthy and have clean water like I had growing up. I think it’s our job to protect it.”

R.E.M. is well-known for its leadership on clean water and countless environmental issues, so it is no surprise that the group authorized the use of its poignant song in this powerful PSA.

“This common-sense guidance protects clean water for our farms and families, and provides greater certainty for landowners,” said Rocky Mountain Farmers Union President and farmer Kent Peppler. “The White House should finalize the clean water rule.”

Approximately 117 million people – one in three Americans – get drinking water from public systems that rely on seasonal, rain-dependent, and headwater streams, which would be protected by the clean water rule. The RMFU video is being shared through social media including Facebook (Rocky Mountain Farmers Union) and Twitter (@RMFUnion), with policy-makers directly, and is available online at http://rmfu.org.

The public comment period for the clean water rule closes November 14th, 2014.

More Environmental Protection Agency coverage here.

One thought on “Video: Farmer from Colorado Supports Clean Water — Rocky Mountain Farmers Union

  1. I’m sorry to see this support by RMFU. I’m a fourth generation Colorado farm/ranch “kid” dating back to 1891, but have also practiced water resource engineering as a licensed engineer in Colorado for 30+ years. As such, I work with the CWA (Clean Water Act) and Section 404 permits daily.

    The reality of this rewrite is not clarification, as the EPA and USACE (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) purport, but massive additional demands on water users in their ability to maintain streams and water resource projects. And to what benefit? None, to the environment. Wetlands won’t be saved or enhanced, and water quality won’t be improved. It also has the potential to nearly kill any potential for new storage, however small that storage may be. Even enlargement of existing reservoirs under the existing rules are essentially dead, due to USACE permit gridlock.

    Instead, what the rewrite will do is greatly increase the cost of doing business. Highway departments, irrigation companies, drainage districts, municipalities, State agencies, Counties, towns homeowners, the USFS, farmers, ranches – all land and facility owners – will have additional hurdles to jump through to obtain a permit. While the EPA proponents claim it will decrease the USACE’s work load, 30 years of observation doesn’t align with that theory.

    Keep in mind that under the CWA the common terminology is “waters of the United States.” Unfortunately, this is extremely misleading. It doesn’t mean “waters,” nor does it mean “clean water.” What it means is “jurisdictional wetlands,” i.e., wetlands the USACE can regulate. (Contrary to public opinion, the EPA doesn’t regulate wetlands. That responsibility falls to the USACE. Instead, the EPA has a selective policing role with wetlands violations, as they can levy fines and legal sanctions, whereas the Corps, by law, cannot.)

    An example from my experience, the Corps required mitigation (i.e., replacement) of a patch – literally, about 100 square feet – of very poor quality, man-made wetlands that had begun to grow in the corner of a parking lot at a ski resort. The source of water? Poor grading of the parking lot, which allowed runoff to pond. Why did they require the mitigation? Because they claimed they could. To what benefit? Because they claimed they could. We waters protected or enhanced? No.

    The Corps has a laundry list of permits to pick from to attempt to fit the projects into. Three decades ago there was a joke about the “general permits” and “Nationwide permits” being “non-permit-permits.” Meaning, they were benign. Now, the amount of biological evaluation required with every permit application increases costs and the length of time of the permitting process dramatically. For instance, on a very simple stream stabilization job in Western Colorado, a client invested over $15,000 in consulting fees, over a period of nine months, to obtain a “Nationwide Permit,” while the construction work only cost about $75,000 and took two weeks to complete. All for 100 lineal feet of stream bank repairs.

    I cannot, in good faith, support the rewrite.

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