New Proposed Water Rules Could Affect Farmers - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

New Proposed Water Rules Could Affect Farmers

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BOZEMAN -

The environmental protection agency is proposing a new rule, aimed at clarifying regulations under the Clean Water Act.

The Montana Farm Bureau said it plans to go over the nearly 400 page document to find out how the proposal may affect farmers and ranchers.

The environmental protection agency, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, released a proposed rule Tuesday to clarify protections for streams and wetlands under the Clean Water Act.

But the Montana Farm Bureau Vice President of Governmental Affairs John Youngberg said he hopes this new rule addresses agriculture in ways earlier versions didn't.

"One area that still concerns is me is that they are going to include tributaries, navigable streams," said Youngberg.

Many farmers and ranchers are concerned because they aren't sure if they would need to get a permit to irrigate their fields.

The EPA revisited the rule because the act's protections became confusing following Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006.

They say about 60 percent of the nation's streams aren't currently protected because they only flow seasonally, or after a heavy rain.

Under the proposal, the EPA is making it clear wetlands near rivers and streams as well as many seasonal streams are protected under the Clean Water Act.

Youngberg said those wetlands could be in the middle of a field.

"It included previously converted cropland, so if you had a low spot in an area that you were farming, you would've had to have to get a permit to do that," said Youngberg.

Youngberg said farmers and ranchers, especially smaller operations, shouldn't be required to get permits to farm under federal water regulations.

"We care about clean water," said Youngberg. "Every day we go out and try to work on clean water."

The EPA said the proposed rules keep many of the old agriculture exemptions.

They said they are also working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop rules to make sure farmers and ranchers won't need permits when they practice water conservation.

The proposed rule is open for public comment for 90 days.

If you want to read the rule or make a comment on it, you can find it here.

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