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‘Secret’ EPA map is a ‘darn can of worms’ for North Dakota, critics say

By   /   August 28, 2014  /   News  /   No Comments

By Rob Port | Watchdog.org North Dakota Bureau

Photo courtesy of U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer's office

WATER EVERYWHERE: A map critics of the controversial Waters of the U.S. rule say was developed by the EPA in secret shows most of North Dakota covered by bodies of water considered perennial or intermittent.

BISMARCK, N.D. — A map developed by the EPA and released to a U.S. House committee investigating controversial proposed water regulations should have citizens concerned, says U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer.

A farm group in North Dakota is calling the maps a “gall darn can of worms.”

“It is certainly alarming the EPA would develop these maps in secret and only release them after being confronted by members of Congress,” Cramer, a Republican, said in a news release accompanying his office’s release of the maps. “The EPA has been hiding information which could upset the public and jeopardize its massive power grab of unprecedented authority over private and public water.”

The maps were released by the EPA to the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, on which Cramer serves. One map shows perennial bodies of water in blue and intermittent bodies of water in yellow. A second regional map including North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Utah uses blue to show each state’s “wetlands inventory.”

Photo courtesy of Congressman Kevin Cramer's office

WETLANDS INVENTORY: This EPA map shows most of North Dakota colored in dark blue, indicating what the EPA describes as ‘wetlands inventory’

On that map, nearly the entire state of North Dakota is in blue.

Critics of the proposed rule have suggested the EPA intends to use it to expand regulation far beyond permanent bodies of water to lands that hold water only some of the time.

“It doesn’t take much of a leap to conclude these highly detailed maps developed with taxpayer funds are for the purpose of enforcing this rule,” Cramer said.

But EPA officials say the maps have nothing to do with the Waters of the U.S. rule.

“Let us be very clear — these maps have nothing to do with EPA’s proposed rule or any other regulatory purpose,” EPA spokeswoman Liz Purchia told Fox News.

In dispute is the Waters of the U.S. rule that would expand the EPA’s regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act to seasonal and temporary bodies of water. The EPA has regulatory authority over “U.S. waters,” but it’s unclear how that authority extends to non-permanent bodies of water.

In New Mexico, one landowner has already experienced the federal government attempting to regulate wetlands that aren’t always wet. In 2013 a New Mexico landowner was prohibited by federal authorities from cleaning out a dry creek bed who cited the Clean Water Act.

Ultimately federal authorities backed down after the Pacific Legal Foundation filed a lawsuit on behalf of the property owners, but one group representing agriculture interests in North Dakota is afraid that won’t be the outcome if the EPA gets its way.

“It is a gall darn can of worms opening,” Pete Hannebutt, the director of public policy for the North Dakota Farm Bureau, told Watchdog.org. “They’ve been trying to reinterpret the rules for years, and we’ve been jumping up and down saying it’s not right.”

Hannebutt said Cramer has it right about the maps from the EPA.

“It could impact everything that we do in generally accepted farming practices, including digging a fence post hole, including running fence, including growing hay. It could have a huge impact on us,” he said.

Hannebutt said the EPA’s regulations could be so broad it could hinder a farmer’s ability to access his land.

“If you see where a farmer has a lane which gives him access to property … if water is pooling in that lane … the EPA is going to say that’s waters of the U.S. and he can’t cross that,” Hannebutt said. “A vigilante EPA officer could say you do not have access to this land.”


Rob formerly served as staff reporter for Watchdog.org.