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"Waters of the United States" listening session in Bismarck

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Dave Thompson, Prairie Public
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North Dakota Sen. Kevin Cramer hosted a “listening session” Monday in Bismarck with new EPA Assistant Administrator Radhika Fox, on the Biden Administration’s proposal to craft a new “Waters of the United States” rule.

That’s part of the “Clean Water Act.” And it sets out the scope of EPA jurisdiction.

Many who attended the hearing – representing agriculture and energy groups, among others – believe it is a states’ rights issue, that should not have a “one-size-fits-all” rule.

"Potholes are not WOTUS,": said North Dakota Grain Growers Executive Director Dan Wogsland. "Drainage ditches are not WOTUS."

Wogsland said everyone wants to protect water.

"At the same time, we have to have regulations that are reasonable, and can be interpreted locally, because North Dakota is different than Texas," Wogsland said.

Rep. Jim Schmidt (R-Huff) said he has read through some of the proposed rule, which he said is about 290 pages long.

"When does my water become federal water," Schmidt said. "Where is that point? How far down the road is it?"

Schmidt said a lot of the rule is based on science, and also on who interprets the science.

"In North Dakota, we deal with water quality, and are probably ahead of other states," Schmidt said. "Why don't we focus on the states that aren't?"

Fox told the audience the only thing that is constant with “Waters of the US” is change.

"It's a whiplash, and that uncertainty does no good for anybody," Fox said. "Our commitment is to try to stop the ping-pong."

The Bismarck “Listening Session” was the first the EPA will be holding to discuss WOTUS.