On Jan. 23, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers signed a final rule revising the definition of “waters of the United States,” which are federally regulated under the Clean Water Act. The final rule will go into effect 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

According to an EPA news release, the revised definition identifies four clear categories of waters that are federally regulated under the CWA:

  • Territorial seas and traditional navigable waters;
  • Perennial and intermittent tributaries;
  • Certain lakes, ponds and impoundments; and
  • Wetlands that are adjacent to jurisdictional waters.

The final rule also details waters that are not subject to federal control, including features that only contain water in direct response to rainfall; groundwater; many ditches, including most farm and roadside ditches; prior-converted cropland; farm and stock watering ponds; and waste treatment systems.

An unpublished version of the final rule, titled “The Navigable Waters Protection Rule: Definition of ‘Waters of the United States,’” can be found on the EPA website.

Previously, EPA and the Corps issued a final rule rescinding the 2015 final Clean Water Rule: Definition of “Waters of the United States,” also known as the WOTUS final rule, on Sept. 12, 2019, as the first of a two-step process to repeal and replace the 2015 rule. That final rule went into effect on Dec. 23, 2019.

ABC has long been a vocal opponent of the Obama-era WOTUS rule since it was first proposed in April 2014 ABC submitted comments on EPA and the Corps’ proposals on step one and step two of the WOTUS rulemaking, stating its continued commitment to work with the agencies and ensure the clearest possible regulations so that its members have the information they need to comply with the law. Additionally, ABC filed comments as a member of the Waters Advocacy Coalition.

More information on the final rule can be found on the EPA website.