Some conservative groups are warning that a proposed expansion of the federal government's Clean Water Act may hurt farmers in Mississippi. The regulation would encompass most bodies of water connected to or near federally controlled waters.
The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a rule that would give the federal government regulatory authority over hundreds of miles of streams and wetlands across the Magnolia State.
Under current rules, the federal government only has authority over navigable waters -- like the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers. The new rule would expand that oversight to any smaller river, stream or wetland that acts as a tributary to any larger body of water. Ken Kopocis is the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Water at the EPA. He says preventing pollution in smaller tributaries leads to a decline in pollution in larger waters.
"It's quite clear that the pollution or destruction of upstream water bodies can have a significant adverse effect on downstream water-bodies," says Koposis. "A simple fact is, of course, water flows from smaller water-bodies into larger water-bodies, and feeds those water-bodies. You cannot protect those water-bodies if the smaller ones are not protected from pollution or destruction as well."
However, some groups worry the rule change would allow the EPA to over extend its reach, and begin regulating irrigation canals and watering holes; bodies of water that many of the state's farmers depend upon. Bill Kovacs is with the U-S Chamber of Commerce.
"You can have a ditch because it's got water in it, you can have pond that has water in it, and that's what's caused so much concern," says Kovacs. "If you have these structures on your property and you want to modify them in any way you need a permit, and the permits are extraordinarily expensive."
Ted Kendall is with the Mississippi Farm Bureau, he says they would like to see the EPA amend its rules to make sure farmers won't be affected by the changes.
"We hope that we can get the new proposed language rolled-back," Kendall says. "We would like to under the status we're under now; so we want that language rolled back and reconsidered or done away with."
Currently, the EPA is inviting public comment on the proposed changes through November 14th. The agency says only then will it consider whether to implement that regulations for next year.