Wetlands protection debate likely to be heated

Debate on expanding and preserving wetlands protections in the Clean Water Act is heating up on Capitol Hill. At issue is whether Congress should adopt legislation that expands the definition of "navigable waters" to include "waters of the United States, including territorial seas." Recent Supreme Court decisions have reined in federal authority to a limited degree, holding that federal regulation of wetlands should be limited to navigable waterways and adjacent wetlands...

• Rights of states to regulate wetland areas at issue

DALLAS, TX, April 16, 2008 -- Debate on expanding and preserving wetlands protections in the Clean Water Act is heating up on Capitol Hill. At issue is whether Congress should adopt legislation that expands the definition of "navigable waters" in the 1972 Clean Air Act to include "waters of the United States, including territorial seas." Wetlands protection bills now before both Houses of Congress would expand the wording.

"This legislation would lead to illegitimate, virtually unlimited and previously unimagined control of private property in the U.S. by including drainage ditches, soggy bottom land and even isolated stock ponds under federal oversight and control," said NCPA Senior Fellow H. Sterling Burnett.

Recent Supreme Court decisions have reined in federal authority to a limited degree, holding that federal regulation of wetlands should be limited to navigable waterways and adjacent wetlands, not necessarily to man-made or seasonally wet ditches and streams.

"Congress should limit its reach to actually navigable waterways," Burnett said. "Certainly not waters that exist solely on private property."

Bills to include the new wording are sponsored by House Transportation Committee Chairman James Oberstar (D-MN) and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI). Their legislation, the Clean Water Restoration Act, was introduce in the Senate last week and is scheduled to come to the House floor today.

"States and private property owners are more than capable of protecting critical wetlands and are better suited to the task than the federal government," Burnett added.

The National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) is an internationally known nonprofit, nonpartisan research institute with offices in Dallas and Washington, D. C. that advocates private solutions to public policy problems. We depend on the contributions of individuals, corporations and foundations that share our mission. The NCPA accepts no government grants.

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