Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Federal policies vex Utah water commission

Federal policies that either aim to instill more oversight of water or deny access altogether have some Utah leaders frothing over what they say is a repeated pattern of overreach that threatens local economies and livelihoods. A prime tempest of controversy discussed Tuesday by the State Water Development Commission is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Waters of the United States rule, which prompted multiple lawsuits by a dozen-plus states and the American Farm Bureau Federation. Utah joined with 17 other states asking federal courts to issue a stay and a constitutional review. Another lawsuit was launched by the American Farm Bureau Federation in Texas courts. Randy Parker, executive director of the Utah Farm Bureau, briefed the commission on an Oct. 9 ruling in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals that issued a nationwide stay of the rule, noting there was a likelihood the EPA exceeded its authority. Critics that include Utah and Colorado also put enough pressure on the U.S. Forest Service to withdraw — at least for now — consideration of a new groundwater rule that would require the issuance of any permit to consider nearby groundwater resources in the area. Opponents said that such a rule potentially interfered with states' "sovereign" domain over groundwater resources within its borders, leading to the congressional legislation to ward off the directive. Ron Thompson, general manager of the Washington County Water Conservancy District, said possible revisions to a land-use plan by the Bureau of Land Management in Washington County have severe ramifications should one particular approach be adopted. The changes are part of management strategies for two new national conservation areas created with the Washington County Lands Bill of 2009. But Thompson said the BLM — under one option — is ignoring key considerations that went into the passage of the bill, including water supplies being left unhindered and right of way corridors left intact...more

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