A controversial yet sparsely-covered bill is working its way through the U.S. Senate. Senate Bill 787, or the Clean Water Restoration Act, has many South Texas ranchers and landowners worried and mad.
The bill would amend the Clean Water Act to replace the term "navigable waters" to make all surface water in the country "waters of the United States."
What does this minor change in wording mean? Instead of oversight of lakes and rivers, the change would give the federal government jurisdiction over all water -- including the ponds ranchers use to feed cattle, and even the water that collects in your ditches after a good rain.
The bill is lengthy, as you can immagine. Highlights of the federal government's new jurisdiction if the bill passes, as it relates to you and ranchers:
(3) of dredged or fill materials resulting from normal farming, silviculture, and ranching activities;
(4) of dredged or fill materials for the maintenance of currently serviceable structures, the construction or maintenance of farm or stock ponds, irrigation ditches and maintenance of drainage ditches, or farm, forest.
Legislators say the amendment clarifies the government's jurisdiction and puts in place measures to ensure the country's water is clean. After all, streams and runoff reach rivers. This water needs to be regulated, they say.
Many in South Texas say they'll have to pay for a permit to build or maintain a stock tank, and face further meddling from federal figureheads who have know idea about ranching.
Here's a link to the complete bill: http://www.opencongress.org/bill/111-s787/text
What are your thoughts?
Thanks for your input,
Gabe Semenza / Advocate public service editor
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