By John Schneidawind, vice president of public affairs, ARTBA 

The Trump administration’s rewrite of the 2015 “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule–officially released Jan. 23–will help restore clarity to federal wetlands regulations and reduce delays to important transportation improvements, ARTBA President Dave Bauer says.

“The new rule recognizes that delay and uncertainty only serve to increase transportation project costs,” Bauer says. He credited the administration for fulfilling its promise to bring clarity to the muddied jurisdictional questions surrounding the regulation.

At issue is how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) define water bodies that are subject to federal authority. Under the Obama administration era rule, roadside ditches could have been subject to unnecessary federal oversight, delaying transportation projects, increasing costs and jeopardizing highway safety. In previous regulatory comments and congressional 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.”

Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced the new regulation, called the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, at the NAHB International Builders Show® in Las Vegas.

“Our rule takes a common-sense approach to implementation to eliminate that confusion,” Wheeler said in a release. “This rule also eliminates federal overreach and strikes the proper balance between federal protection of our Nation’s waters and state autonomy over their aquatic resources.”

ARTBA remains involved in federal litigation over the earlier repeal of the 2015 WOTUS rule. It will similarly fight to protect the Trump administration WOTUS regulations against any new legal challenges.

For more information, visit the EPA’s special website about the new rule.