Iowa farmers cheer clean water rule remake

To Linn County grain farmer Curt Zingula, a newly written federal rule on clean water brings more clarity and less concern about government control over his land.

Zingula, like many other Iowa farmers and agricultural groups, are cheering the new proposed rule, which seeks to define which waterways are subject to regulation under the U.S. Clean Water Act.

Introduced this past week by President Donald Trump’s administration, the new Waters of the United States rule rolls back provisions written under President Barack Obama’s administration but later blocked from taking effect in about half the states, including Iowa, by the federal courts.

The previous rule brought backlash from farmers and ag groups, who characterized it as a federal power grab — one that critics said would have given the government broad regulatory authority over even the smallest collections of water on farmland.

The issue became a political rallying cry for Republicans, and Trump’s pledge to overhaul the rule won support from farm interests.

Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced what it called “a clear, understandable, and implementable definition of ‘waters of the United States’ that clarifies federal authority under the Clean Water Act.” It now must go through a public comment period before becoming final.

The reach of the Clean Water Act has been debated by lawmakers, bureaucrats and judges for years as they struggle to answer a basic question: Where should the government start in regulating the quality of waters that eventually flow into larger bodies?

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