On Tuesday, December 11, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) released a new proposed “Waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) definition to replace the 2015 WOTUS rule issued under the Obama Administration.
 
In its official statement, the EPA stated the intent of the proposed definition is to provide a “clear, understandable and implementable definition of “Waters of the United States” that clarifies federal authority under the Clean Water Act.” The announcement comes a little over a year after an executive order directing the EPA to withdraw and rewrite the 2015 rule.
 
The new proposed definition would create six categories of regulated waters and includes 11 exemptions. The six categories of WOTUS include: traditional navigable waters; tributaries; certain ditches; certain lakes and ponds; impoundments; and 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.

 

To read the proposed rule and agency fact sheets, click here.

   

On Tuesday, October 23, 2018, President Trump signed S. 3021, the “America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018,” which authorizes construction of Army Corps of Engineers water resources projects for flood risk management, navigation, hurricane and storm damage risk reduction, and environmental restoration; modifies previously authorized projects; and contains other water-related provisions.
 
Included in the “America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018,” is authorization to begin work on a massive reservoir project just south of Lake Okeechobee with the idea of directing water into the reservoir instead of releasing it into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries in Southeast and Southwest Florida. 
 
While the federal money triggers the design work, the next step is for Congress to allocate the $200 million a year needed for construction of the roughly $1.6 billion project, which supporters have envisioned as being half-funded by the federal government.
 
Florida Senate President and massive advocate of this bill, Joe Negron, is hopeful to begin construction in the fall with a goal of three to five years for completion.