Saturday, August 22, 2009

How Does This Government Grab Grab You?

August 14, 2009

Legislation could extend federal control to rain & underground water? Largest federal water & land grab in history?

How's this for a scary possibility?

The Army Corps of Engineers and the federal Environmental Protection Agency could regulate "all waters of the United States".
In short, the feds would monitor and regulate all bodies of water in this country.
What! It's feared that control could even extend to rain water and underground water -- even if you don't have surface water.
Believe it or not, there is a proposal (S 787) -- recently passed out of U.S. Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee -- that could result in the largest water and land grab in U.S. history. The strictly party-line vote (12 Democrats to 7 Republicans) opens the door for full Senate consideration and a possible future vote.

Here are some of the questions floating around since that committee approval:
* Is this a Congressional move to seize control of all U.S. waters?
* Do you want the Corps and the EPA in your backyard?
* Do you want the EPA and Corps to control your water?
* Do you want the Corps and EPA to control all your watersheds -- that means all your land too?
* Does this give federal regulators the right to control private property?

That's the fear raging if the new Clean Water Restoration Act (CWRA) passes Congress.
Now, it's scary enough that this type of legislation could pass out of the EPW Committee. But it's scarier when you realize that committee failed to hold hearings in this 2009Congress. How could any lawmakers in his/her right mind vote on something without public hearings? The same way they vote without reading the legislation!

Now, back in 2008, James Oberstar, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, held a hearing on his proposed CWRA. Public outcry killed the proposal in committee. You have a chance to end this latest proposal too if you make sure your Congressional delegates hear from you about just how bad this bill is.

The scary part of this legislative proposal comes because the committee voted to take out the limitation in the Clean Water Act requiring the Corps of Engineers and the EPA to regulate only "navigable" waters. (Navigable: wide or deep enough, or free enough from obstructions, to be traveled on by ships.)

The modified version of S 787 gives the Corps and EPA the authority to regulate "all waters of the United States". The committee tried a trick by taking out the reference to "all activities affecting these waters" but most everyone seems to agree that because of terminology elsewhere in the bill, courts will have to rule the two agencies will have authority to regulate all activities affecting all waters of the U.S.

This same EPW Committee voted to overturn two Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006 that required the Corps and EPA to only regulation "navigable" waters.
There is very real fear that the term "waters of the United States" as passed in this bill could refer to all waters subject to the ebb and flow of the tide, the territorial seas, and all interstate and intrastate waters, including lakes, rivers, streams (including intermittent streams), mudflats, sand flats, wetlands, sloughs, prairie potholes, wet meadows, playa lakes, and natural ponds, all tributaries and impoundments of any of these waters.
Some groups nationally have already spoken out in opposition to what is being classified as the biggest federal water and land grab in American history.

Cattlemen have expressed fears the bill would expand federal regulatory control to unprecedented levels -- "essentially putting stock tanks, drainage ditches, any puddle or water feature found on family farms and ranches -- potentially even ground water -- under the regulatory strong-arm of the federal government.
The National Cattlemen's Beef Association and Public Lands Council strongly oppose this legislation and are asking lawmakers to stop this proposal should it come up for a full Senate vote. There, as yet, is no bill number in the House.

Some fear this legislation would grant to the Corps and the EPA control over "your water and all your watersheds," including National Land Use Controls as well as control over all water and land.
How could that be? The bill redefines what the term "wetlands" means in law. If all land is wetlands, who would have power and jurisdiction to control all the watersheds in the U.S.?
This is scary stuff!

Imagine one effect here in Nevada might be the elimination of any monitoring and control presently held by Nevada Water Law as interpreted by the State Engineer. If our State Engineer had no control over water in the Silver State, all kinds of bad things could be predicted. Chaos"»

And how would special districts such as the Walker River Irrigation District be affected? Its farmers and ranchers?

Just think how the Walker River Basin Project would have been handled if the Corps and the EPA had control of its waters. With Senator Harry Reid's power over federal agencies and their budgets, Mason and Smith Valleys would already be dustbowls and Walker Lake's water levels would be at historic highs -- if they could get that water past the reservation.
Remember when the small community of Walker on the shores of the lake feared the tribe would own the bands and bed of the lake? If the feds control it, line up the moving vans.
Of course, plenty of our representatives back in Washington, D.C. will denounce this concern as fear-mongering nonsense. Fortunately, we have learned not to trust these people.
This all comes back to the public's lack of trust in our elected officials. We fear the steps being taken by elected officials who profess they know what's best for us when all they truly want is more and more control.

They hold the electorate in disdain. We are not smart enough to take care of ourselves, so they have to do it.

This is yet another example of a federal government "control grab".
And, Washington wonders why Americans don't trust them.

--Jim Sanford is a longtime Yerington/Mason Valley resident a a former Editor and Publisher of the Mason Valley News.

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