State opposes waterway takeover

Members of the Nevada Conservation Commission expressed concern Friday that proposed EPA rules would strip the state of any control over all of the waterways in Nevada — even ditches and ponds.

Dave Gaskin, deputy administrator of the Division of Environmental Protection, told commissioners the rules are a dramatic expansion of the reach federal authorities have under the Clean Water Act. If they go into effect as written, he said, state and local officials as well as farmers and others would need federal permits and permission to make changes to even the smallest of tributaries and dry creek beds and dry washes that seldom have water flowing in them.

“I look at this as an attempt to get into the regulation of the amount of water,” said State Engineer Jason King. “An attempt to get their nose under the tent.”

“I say it’s another power grab by the federal government,” said commission Chairman Joe Sicking.

A paper published by the Nevada Cattlemen’s Association said the proposed rules would expand the definition of tributary to include, for the first time, ditches and ponds, streams that only hold water during a rain storm and “every water in a flood plain.”

“This includes ditches ponds, man-made conveyances like storm water structures, ephemeral streams that might run through fields, wet areas on pastures or any other wet area located in a flood plain,” according to the Cattlemen’s Association.

Commissioner Jake Tibbitts said the rule is in direct conflict with the Nevada commission’s plan. He urged the commission to back the Nevada EPA petition to expand the time for comment and potential amendment of the proposed rules, currently set to close July 21.

He said after the meeting agencies that involve water regulation across the state are working to convince the federal government to amend the plan.

The commission voted to join that effort and send its protests to the federal EPA.


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