Water infrastructure plays huge role in Idaho

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As we spend time with family and friends this Christmas season — tromping through the snow to get a Christmas tree, skiing, snow shoeing, sledding, ice skating, or just shoveling snow and ice off of our driveways and sidewalks — the snow we recreate in and move around translates into significant water resources and development for our state. Federal policy must enable the local decisions that best determine the management of these critical resources.

Snowfall in Idaho’s mountains feeds most Idaho waterways, and our water supply is critical to our economy and productivity. Water not only sustains Idaho’s existing population, but also feeds Idaho’s growth and development, contributing to Idaho being the fastest growing state. Water makes possible Idaho’s vast and diverse agriculture production; supports a multitude of fish and wildlife populations, helping to boost our tourism industry; and produces power that diversifies our energy sources and helps meet the need for domestic energy production.

This fall, with overwhelmingly, bipartisan support, Congress passed and President Trump signed into law S. 3021, the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018. The law supports and advances critical water infrastructure projects across the nation and right here in Idaho. The America’s Water Infrastructure Act will help eliminate regulatory hurdles on projects involving the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, improve our inland waterways, dams and agricultural irrigation delivery systems, and provide communities the ability to maintain and improve water infrastructure systems. Importantly, the law also removes unnecessary red tape, making billions of dollars in deauthorizations of outdated and not locally backed projects to help reduce the deficit.

Notably for Idaho, the America’s Water Infrastructure Act directs the development of a flood prevention action plan for states in the Snake River Basin. It also continues restoration and aquatic invasive species prevention in the Columbia River Basin and gives state and local leaders more control over Corps of Engineers projects. Additionally, the America’s Water Infrastructure Act encourages the use of clean, baseload hydropower.

To best enable water projects and towns across Idaho and our nation to continue to deliver clean water while facing growing pressures on our water resources, primary jurisdiction over the allocation, management and use of water must remain as constitutionally directed — with the states, not the federal government.

Last year, President Trump issued an Executive Order to undo the 2015 “Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule.” The 2015 WOTUS Rule redefined navigable waters to exert federal control over nearly every stream, ditch, pond and puddle on state, local lands and private property. Historically, navigable waters had been limited to rivers and streams and their immediately adjacent wetlands.

I have helped block past legislative efforts to exert federal control over non-navigable waters of the U.S. and supported legislative and other efforts to eliminate this unwarranted power grab over water and land use across the country.

On December 11, 2018, the Administration announced a rewrite of the WOTUS rule that it asserts, “respects the law and would give states and tribes the certainty and flexibility they need to manage waters within their borders.” The Administration is taking comments on the new proposal for 60 days following the rule’s publication date. Information about the rule can be accessed at https://www.epa.gov/wotus-rule. Instructions for submitting comments can be found at https://www.regulations.gov, and the Administration instructs that comments on the proposal should be identified by Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2018-0149.

Access to water is crucial for almost all Idaho industries, municipalities and recreational interests, and I encourage all those interested in this important issue to share your thoughts on the rule.

Mike Crapo represents Idaho’s First Congressional District in the U.S. Senate. He can be reached at crapo.senate.gov.

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