By John Schneidawind, vice president of public affairs, ARTBA

The Trump administration’s Sept. 12 repeal of a 2015 proposed wetlands rule will help restore clarity to federal water regulations and reduce delays to important transportation projects, ARTBA President & CEO Dave Bauer said.

“The regulatory ping-pong on roadside ditches has created vast uncertainty for years with little environmental benefit. Regulators should understand that delay and uncertainty only serve to increase transportation project costs. The Trump administration repeal is a common-sense approach to harmonize wetlands protection and the delivery of needed transportation improvements.”

At issue is how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) define “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) that are subject to federal authority. Under the Obama administration era rule, roadside ditches could have been subject to unnecessary federal oversight, delaying transportation improvements and thereby increasing project costs and jeopardizing highway safety.

In previous regulatory comments and in legislative testimony, ARTBA has noted that ditches serve the necessary function of collecting water that would otherwise have nowhere to go but on roadways, noting that “[a] ditch’s primary purpose is safety and they only have water present during and after rainfall. In contrast, traditional wetlands are not typically man-made nor do they fulfill a specific safety function.”

The Trump administration continues work to finalize a replacement WOTUS regulatory framework that would not improperly extend federal jurisdiction over roadside ditches. ARTBA supports this effort.