Proposals to expand water quality protection standards could affect private landowners

Several actions taken by or against the US Environmental Protection Agency last spring regarding water quality could ultimately affect timber harvest and woodlands management practices.

The EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued draft guidance in April on what constitutes the EPA’s jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. EPA describes “other waters” as “all other waters such as intrastate lakes, rivers, streams (including intermittent streams),mudflats, sandflats, wetlands, sloughs, prairie potholes, wet meadows, playa lakes, or natural ponds, the use, degradation or destruction of which could affect interstate or foreign commerce…” The guidance proposes to substantially broaden EPA’s jurisdiction over water resources on private lands.

EPA was also petitioned in April to establish numeric water quality limits for nutrients in the Mississippi River and the Gulf Coast of Mexico.

Finally, the agriculture industry is suing the EPA to contest the agency’s novel, multi-state watershed pollution limit for nutrients and sediments in the Chesapeake Bay.

Although most of the above actions do not directly affect Kentucky woodland owners, the impending decisions may have broad implications for all private landowners.