The controversial Clean Water Restoration Act (CWRA) has been reintroduced to Congress, leading the National Association of Counties (NACo) to restart its opposition to the act. Like the previous version of CWRA, the legislation introduced on April 2 by Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., would eliminate "navigable" from the definition "waters of the U.S." that are covered by the act, possibly putting even minor bodies of water under federal jurisdiction.

NACo and other local government organizations have said in the past that CWRA could greatly increase the number of projects that require federal approval because they may affect a pond or small stream that previously fell under state authority. That could lead to additional layers of regulatory paperwork that could delay projects and increase costs. "There could be a limitless possibility of future federal permits required to allow counties to do things such as construct a new driveway or simply cross a swale on an individual's property," Madison County, Ohio, Engineer David Brand said in congressional testimony he made last year on behalf of NACo and the National Association of County Engineers. "Work in manmade ditches that are often maintained by counties, such as culverts and storm channels, could be subject to time-consuming federal permitting if CWRA passes with the current language." Congress did not act on CWRA in the last session.

CWRA supporters say removing the word "navigable" from the definition of waters that fall under federal jurisdiction according to the Clean Water Act (CWA) of 1972, which CWRA modifies, would improve federal efforts to reduce water pollution. NACo said in statement that it opposes the removal of the word "navigable." "If the term 'navigable' is removed from the definition of CWA, it is possible that roadside ditches, pipes, streets, gutters, manmade ponds, drainage features, desert washes and other features could be regulated," the statement says. "Additionally, activities such as mosquito and fire abatement prohibitions — and regulating rain gutters beside homes — could also be regulated [by federal authorities]."

Read the statement and get more information from NACo's Clean Water Restoration Act posting.

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