The Federal Register today published a proposed new rule for "waters of the United States" (WOTUS) that will resolve years of uncertainty over where federal jurisdiction begins and ends. The Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will take comments on the proposal for the next 60 days.
The proposed rule, which represents an important victory for our members, was released by the Trump administration on Dec. 11. As a result of the government shutdown that occurred 10 days later, the Federal Register delayed publication of the proposal until today. The revised rule would address many of the serious concerns that NAHB had over the Obama-era regulation that went so far as to regulate man-made ditches and isolated ponds on private property.
The proposal would exclude short-lived ponds, streams and tributaries that only flow in response to a rain event from federal regulation. It would also exclude wetlands that are not directly connected to federally-regulated bodies of water. This new rule will help landowners to determine whether a project on their property will require a federal permit or not, without spending tens of thousands of dollars on engineering and legal professionals.
This revised rule will protect our nation’s waterways and save home builders and other industries that rely on a predictable permitting process time and money. Meanwhile, EPA has announced it will hold a hearing on the proposed new WOTUS rule on Feb. 27 and 28 in Kansas City. The hearing was originally planned for Jan. 23 but was postponed due to the partial government shutdown.
NAHB will be providing comments on the proposed rule and home builder associations and individual members are encouraged to submit comments during the 60-day period that ends April 15. NAHB will be posting template comment letters for members to use at nahb.org/wotus.
The new rule is expected to be finalized and instituted in all 50 states before the end of 2019. In the meantime, because of multiple legal challenges, the Obama-era WOTUS rule remains in effect in 22 states and the District of Columbia, and the previous regulations issued in 1986 are in effect in the remaining 28 states.