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He who controls the water controls the world
Remember how mad everybody got when the U.S. Supreme Court decided that government could seize private property not just for public use but private interests, e.g., kicking you out of your home so a developer can build a shopping mall? Reasoning behind the decision, it was explained, was to produce more jobs and tax revenues. But states could feel free, the court said, to place further restrictions on takings, which many, including Washington, have done.
But you cant let your guard down for a moment, folks, because theres another property rights grab in the works only this time Congress is the instigator and it isnt land, its water. You know the saying he who controls the water controls the world.
Congress is about to attempt a grab for control of all the waters in the United States and the activities affecting them with five little words.
The proposed Clean Water Restoration Act (HR 2421) would amend the 1972 Federal Water Pollution Control Act by removing the words navigable waters and substituting all waters of the United States.
Waters of the United States are then defined as all waters subject to the ebb and flow of the tide, the territorial seas, and all interstate and intrastate waters and their tributaries, including lakes, rivers, streams (including intermittent streams), mudflats, sandbars, wetlands, sloughs, prairie potholes, wet meadows, playa lakes, natural ponds and all impoundments of the foregoing, to the fullest extent that these waters, or activities affecting these waters, are subject to the legislative power of Congress under the Constitution.
The bill was introduced in the U.S. House on May 22 by its prime sponsor, U.S. Rep James Oberstar, D-Minnesota, who chairs the House Transportation Committee. Among its 158 co-sponsors are three Washington congressmen, Norm Dicks, Jay Inslee and Jim McDermott. U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin is expected to introduce a companion bill in the Senate in the near future.
It was in response to two recent Supreme Court decisions that ruled in favor of local government and local citizens that said the federal government had exceeded the limits of its authority under the 1972 Clean Water Act. The Army Corps of Engineers was regulating land that contained nothing but storm sewers and drainage ditches, calling those wetlands. Federal jurisdiction exists over wetlands only when the wetlands have a continuous surface connection with a navigable waterway, the court said.
Obviously, Congress in the persons of Rep. Oberstar and others is now intent on extending federal jurisdiction to all waters, for the first time including intrastate as well as interstate bodies. HR 2421, said a national leader in natural resource policy, is the most dangerous legislation I have ever seen.
This bill is not about clean water or environmental protection, said Don Parmenter, executive director of the American Property Coalition, a non-profit, non-partisan organization that advocates for property rights on private and public lands and waters.
Its about unprecedented expansion of federal control over land, water and people.
National groups that have joined in opposing it include farmers, cattlemen, wheat and corn growers, contractors, business, water agencies, manufacturers and homebuilders.
Stopping it isnt going to be easy, not when its prime sponsor can giveth and taketh away highways, bridges and ferries. But for a start, drop a line to the three sponsors from here and ask them why they want to abdicate each states control over its own waters.
Adele Ferguson can be reached at P.O. Box 69, Hansville, WA, 98340.