The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) this week released the final “Waters of the U.S.” rule (WOTUS) that will redefine the definition and jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act and “will clear up confusion regarding its jurisdiction over certain streams, wetlands, ponds, and other land and bodies of water,” EPA said.

The new rule comes nearly a decade after the Supreme Court pointed out that confusion over exactly which waters fall under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act.  EPA and the Army Corps of engineers looked at 1,200 peer-reviewed studies and held 400 meetings in communities with stakeholders to design the new rule, which is estimated to cost as much as $306 million annually.

“The rule does not create any new permitting requirements for America’s farmers.  Activities like planting, harvesting, and moving livestock have long been exempt from Clean Water Act regulations, and the Clean Water Rule preserves those exemptions,” according to EPA.

The final rule, however,  has farm groups and Congress at odds with the agency.  The 297-page rule   available here would make it clear what streams, wetlands, ponds and ditches are subject to regulation under the law.  Even before the rule was finalized, Congress had started attacking the rule in a two-pronged approach consisting of provisions in fiscal year 2016 appropriations measures that could delay the implementation and stand alone bills that could kill the rule altogether.

The House passed HR 1732 on a 261-155 vote early in May, with 24 Democrats supporting the measure, and also passed the fiscal year 2016 Energy and Water appropriations bill that would delay implementation starting in the new fiscal year October 1, 2015.

Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK), chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, introduced S. 1140, the Federal Water Quality Protection Act, which essentially tells EPA to scratch the rule and start over and would also seek more input from affected parties when drafting a replacement bill.  Inhofe is planning mark up for sometime this summer.  “Instead of fixing the overreach in the proposed rule, remarkably, EPA had made it even broader.  The EPA has set themselves up to increase federal control over private lands, and I will not allow it,”  Senator Inhofe said, who is a powerful critic of the new rule.  He said his committee will take action in the summer “to halt EPA’s unprecedented land grab and refocus its job on protecting traditional navigable waters from pollution.”

The WOTUS rule will be effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.