On Jan. 23, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced a final rule regarding the definition of “Waters of the United States,” referred to as WOTUS. Judging by the reaction from environmental groups to this announcement, the fight over this issue is far from over.

The headlines screamed that this was a “rollback” of the Obama Administration;s WOTUS rule, but given the fact that the prior rule was stayed by the courts and not implemented in 28 states this is hardly a “rollback.” Even for the 22 states where the prior WOTUS rule was in place, this “rollback” takes environmental policy all the way back to 2015.

So, what does this new WOTUS rule mean for North Dakota? Short answer, not much. The prior rule was never implemented in North Dakota. But, in the larger sense it is very positive.

Of course, environmental groups were quick to weigh in on EPA’s actions. In a Politico article an attorney for Earthjustice was quoted as saying, “President Trump’s administration wants to make our waters burn again.” In another article, The Hill reported that nonprofit, American Rivers, said the new rule is “a crippling blow” to the protection of more than half the country's wetlands…”

But the new rule will not let our rivers “burn again.” It simply limits the federal government’s authority over certain waters and wetlands and allows each state to develop rules and regulations to protect water resources. For those of us who want to see states regain at least some control within their borders, this is a good thing.

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To really understand the pained reaction from environmental groups just follow the money. The new rule limits EPA’s authority and control over historically state-controlled waters and moves more decision making to the states. One positive result is that the lucrative “sue & settle” practice that lined the pockets of these groups with taxpayer money over the past decade is further limited.

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More importantly, what does the new rule mean for North Dakota’s farmers and ranchers? We had a difficult and wet fall with ample winter snow across most of the state. Corn, sunflowers and other crops are still in the field buried in snow that will soon melt. Under the Obama Administration’s WOTUS rule, when the snow melts our farmers' fields and ditches would be under the jurisdiction of the federal government. Our farmers have enough to worry about in the coming months without EPA looking over their field management plans.

The new WOTUS rule is a small step in the right direction, to property rights and liberty. Each state, including North Dakota, has rules, regulations and safeguards in place to protect our water resources. Good people with a strong interest and desire to keep our water safe for their families and yours.

Despite the protests from environmental groups, this new WOTUS rule does not mean our water will be at risk. It simply recognizes that each state has authority over certain water resources within its borders. North Dakota’s water is in good hands.

Grande represented the 41st District in the N.D. Legislature from 1996 to 2014. She is a wife, mom, grandma, lover of life and Jesus. Opinions are solely her own. Email her at bette@bettegrande.com. sented the 41st District in the N.D. Legislature from 1996 to 2014. She is a wife, mom, grandma, lover of life and Jesus. Opinions are solely her own. Email her at bette@bettegrande.com.