EPA talks water rule on Missouri farm

Thirty-inch drain from Bill Heffernan's upland pond in Missouri

Thirty-inch drain from Bill Heffernan’s upland pond in Missouri

If farmers didn’t need a water permit before they won’t need one with the new rule of the Clean Water Act — That’s what EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy told members of the Kansas City AgriBusiness Council on Thursday, the day after she told that to reporters on a Missouri farm tour.

“Unless you’re really doing something that’s disturbing this in a significant way or adding pollutants downstream you never need to connect with EPA about it. It’s not as if we’re requiring a permit with a new rule that we didn’t have before.”

Ken Kopocis, EPA’s Senior Advisor in the Office of Water, pointed to upland ditches on Bill Heffernan’s farm that he says will NOT be regulated. He says just because a ditch, like the ones on the farm, connects to jurisdictional waters, , does not make the ditch itself jurisdictional.

“In fact, this is the first time that we’re proposing in rule language itself to put language in that says that these upland ditches that are providing the drainage function they were built for are explicitly excluded from the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act.”

EPA's Gina McCarthy says this water left in channel on Bill Heffernan's upland Missouri farmland won't be regulated

EPA’s Gina McCarthy says this water left in channel on Bill Heffernan’s upland Missouri farmland won’t be regulated

EPA Region 7 Administrator Karl Brooks, based in Kansas City, who was also on the tour said the EPA won’t be knocking at the farm gate.

“All kinds of decisions will need to be made and nobody will ever have to come and talk to the EPA and the Corps of Engineers because they’ll have that suite of practices, they’ll have that clarity that they didn’t have right now. That’s the point of the rule is to give that clarity so guys can make decisions in real time.”

Standard farming practices, whether through USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) programs or not, McCarthy stressed, will be exempt from the rule. She says that’s what her tours of farms and discussions with farmers is all about – “to get it right.”

Audio with Bill Heffernan and Gina McCarthy on farm tour (3:00 mp3)

AUDIO: Bill Heffernan, Karl Brooks, Ken Kopocis (6:30 mp3)

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