WASHINGTON, D.C.--Late yesterday, USA Rice staff were invited to a meeting with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and others to discuss the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule (now titled the Clean Water Rule). EPA disclosed that they intended to release a pre-Federal Register notice of the rule today. Implementation of the rule will begin 60 days after it is officially published in the Federal Register, which is expected within the next month.
The agency staff stated that significant changes were made to the final version based on the more than one million public comments the agency received. EPA indicated that among the changes are the issues of upland ditches, the definition of tributaries, the extent of floodplains, and the confusion over how farms would be treated in "adjacent waters," among other things. Agency staff specifically cited USA Rice comments in helping to better define an exemption for rice fields that was in the proposal but had some problematic language.
USA Rice is encouraged by the agency's efforts to substantively change the document, but will be carefully reviewing and analyzing the final rule to provide guidance to the rice industry. The pre-Federal Register version of the final Clean Water Rule and various supporting documentation can be found here.