The Trump administration's latest proposal
to revise the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) definition has been well received by many throughout the industry. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers held public hearings in Kansas City, Mo., on Feb. 27 and 28 to give the public an opportunity to comment on the proposed rule, and multiple NAHB members expressed their support.
Members who commented during the hearings included: Brenner Holland, a real estate developer in Kansas City, Mo., and member of HBA of Greater Kansas City
; Jerry Passman, a builder in Baton Rouge, La., and a member of HBA of Greater Baton Rouge
; and Harold Phelps, a civil engineer in Olathe, Kan., and a member of HBA of Greater Kansas City
“The proposal provides clear direction to builders and developers, and empowers us to understand for ourselves whether our construction activities require the need for a federal wetland permit,” stated Holland.
Meanwhile, in a related development, the Senate voted today to confirm Andrew Wheeler as EPA administrator. NAHB has developed a working relationship with Wheeler. Most notably, CEO Jerry Howard attended the event at EPA headquarters
in December when Wheeler announced the new WOTUS definition.
The WOTUS definition determines the extent of federally regulated waters under the Clean Water Act (CWA) that requires federal wetlands and stormwater permits for home-building activities. Compared to existing regulations, the proposal is widely considered a vast improvement because it 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.
During the hearings, members described problems with the previous WOTUS rule and explained how the proposed rule is more consistent with Congress’ intent and prior U.S. Supreme Court rulings that sought to have the CWA regulate only those activities that discharged pollutants and/or dredge or fill materials into traditional navigable waters and wetlands that are immediately adjacent to those navigable waters.
Although the members were supportive of the proposed rule, they also suggested some additional areas for improvement. Among their suggestions, NAHB members urged EPA and the Corps to:
- Better distinguish the types of ditches that are excluded under the proposed rule from natural tributaries that are regulated when they contribute perennial or intermittent flow to a traditional navigable water.
- Include a flow duration that clearly differentiates “intermittent” streams that are regulated from ephemeral features that are excluded under the proposed rule.
The EPA and Corps’ proposed WOTUS rule is open for public comment until April 15. NAHB members can visit nahb.org/wotus
for more on the proposed rule. For additional information, contact NAHB environmental policy analysts Michael Mittelholzer
at 800-368-5242 x8660 or Evan Branosky