Witnesses offer “resounding” testimony against EPA water grab

washOn Monday, Arizona residents offered compelling testimony a joint field hearing in Phoenix, Arizona, that was attended by representatives Trent Franks, Paul Gosar, David Schweikert, Lamar Smith of Texas, and Arizona State Senator Gail Griffin, Chairman of the Arizona Senate Committee on Water, Land Use and Rural Development.

Representative Gosar said in a statement issued after the hearing, “Resounding testimony from Arizona witnesses confirmed that the EPA’s proposed water grab runs contrary to state and tribal water laws and would have devastating economic consequences for farmers, ranchers, small businesses, and water users in Arizona and throughout the country.”

Gisar said that it was “unfortunate the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers refused to participate in the hearing. I think they would have learned a lot from hearing from the people on the ground in Arizona. I would encourage them to hold regional listening sessions in the future to ensure they hear from the citizens that will be most impacted from this flawed rule.”

Stefanie Smallhouse, testifying on behalf of the of the Arizona Farm Bureau said, “The newly proposed EPA rule for the Waters of the U.S. would be devastating to my family’s farming operation, as well as hundreds of others in agriculture in Arizona…This proposed rule is an economic disaster, and a dream killer for my kids. There is no way a family farm such as ours would be able to withstand the hefty fines which would be enforced as a result of this rule.”

Bob Lynch, testifying on behalf of the Irrigation and Electrical Districts’ Association of Arizona said, “The EPA and the Corps have driven a truck through Justice Kennedy’s opinion in Rapanos. According to them, everything is relevant, everything affects everything, and everything is jurisdictional… How many permits will the Central Arizona Project need? Will it have to treat the water before it stores it in Lake Pleasant? Before it releases it back into its system to deliver to cities, towns, industries and agriculture? And who will be able to afford it? Certainly not agriculture…This may be the biggest jurisdictional overreach that I have witnessed in 50 years of law practice. I hate to say it but the only people who come out ahead on this proposed rule are lawyers.”

Michael Lacey, testifying on behalf of the Arizona Department of Water Resources said, “The EPA’s proposed rule may serve to jeopardize the viability and resiliency of Arizona’s existing water portfolio and water delivery infrastructure and threaten development of the additional water supplies that will be necessary to sustain Arizona’s economic development. We are both puzzled and troubled as to why EPA has not worked with the states in this rules development.”

Governor Gregory Mendoza testifying on the behalf of the of Gila River Indian Community said, “The Community is concerned that the Proposed Rule constitutes an over-reach of the Agencies’ CWA authorities that will result in increased permitting costs, delays, and potential litigation…The Proposed Rule should not have been issued before the EPA is able to confirm the scientific conclusions upon which the Proposed Rule has been based.”

According to Gosar, on March 25, 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) released a proposed rule that would assert Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction over nearly all areas with any hydrologic connection to downstream navigable waters, including man-made conveyances such as ditches. Gosar says that contrary to claims made by the EPA and USACE, this would directly contradict prior U.S. Supreme Court decisions, which imposed limits on the extent of federal CWA authority.

Gosar disputes the agencies claim that the rule is narrow and clarifies CWA jurisdiction, it in fact aggressively expands federal authority under the CWA while bypassing Congress and creating unnecessary ambiguity. Moreover, the rule is based on incomplete scientific and economic analyses, argues Gosar.

Witnesses included:
Michael Lacey of the Arizona Department of Water Resources
Governor Gregory Mendoza of Gila River Indian Community
Jay Johnson of the Central Arizona Project
Dr. Kirsten Engel of the University of Arizona
Stefanie Smallhouse of the Arizona Farm Bureau
Bob Lynch of Irrigation and Electrical Districts’ Association of Arizona
Spencer Kamps of the Home Builders Association of Central Arizona
Matthew Hinck of the Arizona Rock Products Association
Nicole LaSlavic – Arizona Association of Realtors

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