NAHB Supports WOTUS Rule, Seeks Key Clarifications
NAHB submitted comments yesterday to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) in response to the Trump administration's proposed definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS).
2019 NAHB Chairman Greg Ugalde summarized the views of NAHB, developers and builders by saying NAHB “largely supports the proposal and appreciates the efforts of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to further refine the limits of federal authority and ensure the rule is clear, understandable and workable.”
The proposed rule would clarify the extent of federal oversight and correct the vast overreach of prior rules. Once finalized, builders and developers will be better able to determine for themselves whether they will need federal permits for construction activities.
And, because the rule narrows the extent of federal jurisdiction by excluding isolated water bodies, “ephemeral” waters that only form in response to rain, and most ditches, builders should require fewer Clean Water Act permits for isolated or temporary wetlands or water bodies.
NAHB's comments included many suggestions on how to clarify the proposed rule and thereby help developers, builders and other landowners to implement the proposed rule's requirements in the field. For example, NAHB asked the agencies to clarify how landowners should identify excluded ephemeral waters, calculate the amount of rainfall necessary to render a water body jurisdictional, and limit the period of time allowed to determine whether a ditch is man-made or natural.
Many state and local associations and NAHB members also provided their own comments on the proposed rule. In addition, NAHB members provided testimony during several field hearings on the proposal including Feb. 27-28 in Kansas City, and small business roundtable hearings by the U.S. Small Business Administration in Denver on March 27 and Tampa on April 4.
Though the proposal marks a milestone in the effort to better define WOTUS, NAHB also asked the agencies to act quickly to rescind the problematic prior 2015 rule.
EPA and the Corps will now review all comments submitted during the comment period, and revise the proposed rule before issuing a final rule. NAHB will continue to provide input to the agencies during that process and keep members informed of any developments.