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July 18, 2007 Family Farm Alliance, F O R  I M M E D I A T E  R E L E A S E

by NORM SEMANKO,  Idaho Water Users Association

Idaho Water Leader to Testify on Clean Water Act

Semanko will represent Western water users at committee hearing
Semanko's Testimony

A Western water leader will tell a Congressional subcommittee tomorrow in the nation’s capital that proposed legislation revising the Clean Water Act (CWA) will create more problems rather than solving a wide range of problems with the Act that already exist.

Norm Semanko, executive director of the Idaho Water Users Association (IWUA), is testifying on behalf of the National Water Resources Association (NWRA) and the Family Farm Alliance (Alliance). He will tell members of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure that passage of the proposed Clean Water Restoration Act of 2007 (CWRA) would seriously erode the well-established and long-respected right of the states to manage their water resources and protect water quality.

Semanko’s testimony puts the NWRA and the Alliance squarely on the Congressional record as opposing the legislation.
“Significant problems are already being encountered by water providers with the existing Act and these challenges are expected to continue,” said Semanko, whose written testimony is available on the Family Farm Alliance web site: www.familyfarmalliance.org .

Semanko will cite a variety of crucial reasons why the proposed revision of the CWA should be blocked. The proposed legislation is supposed to reaffirm the original intent of the CWA, to end legal wrangling about what Congress meant when it passed the CWA in 1972, and to prevent the judicial branch from rewriting or redefining the scope and application of the CWA. Semanko believes the CWRA fails to accomplish any of these goals.

“CWRA ignores the Congressional intent underlying the CWA and will give rise to more litigation, not less,” said Semanko.

Representatives from NWRA and the Alliance are pleased that Semanko has this opportunity to speak directly to the author of CWRA, Committee Chairman Oberstar (MINNESOTA).

“The case for expanding federal jurisdiction through the proposed legislation has been greatly exaggerated,” said NWRA executive director Tom Donnelly. "After reading the justifications provided by the bill’s drafters, one not familiar with this nation’s regime for regulation of the environment would understandably conclude that there is some giant gap in the regulatory scheme that is allowing unchecked pollution in waters that are not currently within the jurisdiction of the CWA. Norm is the right guy to tell the committee this is simply not the case.”

Agricultural water users fear that the proposed legislation would have disastrous impacts on agricultural and municipal water supply activities.

“The CWRA will extend jurisdiction to virtually all agricultural irrigation facilities, subjecting them to water quality standards the facilities were not designed for and are not operated to support,” said Dan Keppen, Alliance executive director. “Such a jurisdictional extension will paralyze the ability of water users to efficiently operate and maintain these facilities.”

One of the stated purposes of CWRA is to “clearly define” the scope of CWA jurisdiction. To accomplish this goal, however, the bill proposes to assert jurisdiction over “all interstate and intrastate waters.”

“The proposed bill does not clearly define jurisdiction, introduces new uncertainties and ambiguities that will ultimately need to be resolved through more, not less, litigation,” said Semanko.

Semanko will conclude his testimony by telling legislators that significant problems are already being encountered by water providers with the existing Clean Water Act and these challenges are expected to continue.

The Family Farm Alliance and the National Water Resources Association strongly oppose the CWRA because it is unconstitutional, unnecessarily and unjustifiably expands federal jurisdiction over intrastate waters, and would have significant adverse impacts upon agricultural and municipal water providers.

“We urge clarity, not expansion of the Clean Water Act,” said Semanko.

The Family Farm Alliance advocates for family farmers, ranchers, irrigation districts and allied industries in 17 Western States. The National Water Resources Association is a collection of state water associations and represents the collective interests of agricultural and municipal water providers in the Western States.

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