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The Environmental Protection Agency is overstepping its bounds by expanding the wide definition of “navigable” waters under the Clean Water Act to the detriment of Genesee County farms. That’s the message from Legislator Shelley Stein, Congressman Chris Collins and Farm Bureau President Dean Norton today at Stein Farms in LeRoy.

“Should the EPA be successful in gaining this rule change to label each temporary puddle from precipitation such as from our weather today as navigable waters, our daily farm activity would stop,” Stein said.

It would give the Clean Water Act jurisdiction over almost all physical bodies of water like ditches, man-made ponds and potholes -- so long as they are present for four days.

“It would allow the Corps of Engineers and the EPA to come in and make life harder for our farmers who are struggling as it is in many cases to make ends meet,” Collins said. “It’s uncertainty: when are they going to show up, what are they going to say, what are they going to demand? The fact of the matter is, a pothole is not a navigable water.”

Norton says this issue has come up before and the EPA has twice lost in the Supreme Court based on the definition of “navigable waters.”

“If you can run a canoe down it, if you can have commerce be affected on that water, then it’s navigable,” he said. “A pothole is not navigable. A pond is not navigable. That puddle out there in the driveway is not navigable.”

Stein says the new regulation undermines how farmers already take care of their land and the environment.

“As proponents of clean water, we know that water filtering by soil is an important process,” Stein said. “We want the soils to perform as intended. Ponds, ditches and rain ways are in use to hold water until it moves through a natural filtration process.”

Norton says the Clean Water Act’s enactment in 1972 was a positive development for the environment; however, both he and Collins agree that this federal overreach would negatively affect more than farms.

“Your municipalities are going to have to come up with the same rules and regulations and follow the same process,” Norton said. “So if you think your taxes might be a little high to your town and county right now, just wait until the town and county has to clean the roadside ditch and they have to get a permit.”

“Anything that has a negative impact on our farms impacts jobs and the economy also in a very negative way,” Collins said.

Collins says opposition has the bi-partisan support of 166 members of congress and it continues to grow.

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