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Waters of the United States Definition Proposed by EPA

May 6, 2014

On April 21, 2014 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) published for public comment a proposed rule defining the scope of waters protected under the Clean Water Act (CWA), in light of several U.S. Supreme Court cases. The agencies proposed to define “waters of the United States” for all sections of the CWA to mean: traditional navigable waters; interstate waters, including interstate wetlands; the territorial seas; impoundments of traditional navigable waters, interstate waters, including interstate wetlands, the territorial seas, and tributaries, as defined, of such waters; tributaries, as defined, of traditional navigable waters, interstate waters, or the territorial seas; and adjacent waters, including adjacent wetlands.
In tandem with the proposed rule, the agencies have issued an interpretive rule that continues existing statutory and regulatory exemptions from CWA Section 404 permitting requirements for normal farming, silviculture and ranching practices where these activities are part of an ongoing farming, ranching or forestry operation. The interpretive rule is immediately effective and expands the list of existing agricultural exemptions to include an additional 53 activities that are exempt from permitting requirements so long as they are conducted consistent with Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) conservation practice standards.