The federal government shutdown has delayed outreach related to the new proposed definition of the Waters of the United States (WOTUS).
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) released a new proposed WOTUS definition Dec. 11 to replace the 2015 rule issued under the Obama Administration. The agencies scheduled a Jan. 10 webcast and a Jan. 23 public hearing in Wyandotte County, Kan. (Kansas City). The lapse in appropriations for EPA led the the outreach events' postponement, and the rule's publication in the Federal Register has also been postponed.
The agencies will take public comment on the proposal for 60 days following its publication in the Register.
The announcement came a little over a year after President Trump signed an executive order directing the EPA to withdraw and rewrite the controversial 2015 rule. EPA will accept public comments for 60 days once the definition is officially published in the Federal Register.
The new proposed definition creates six categories of regulated waters and includes 11 exemptions. The six categories of WOTUS include:
- traditional navigable waters
- certain ditches
- certain lakes and ponds
- adjacent wetlands
The proposed rule specifies that if water does not meet one of the six listed categories, it will not be considered a WOTUS and clarifies that certain other waters will also no longer be considered a WOTUS such as ditches, features that are only wet during rainfall events, groundwater, stormwater control features, wastewater recycling infrastructure built in uplands, converted cropland and waste treatment systems.
NACo is currently in the process of developing a comprehensive analysis of the new proposed definition.