The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is being accused of making a federal “power grab” for all the water in the nation. Under the draft of their proposed regulation, the “waters of the United States” are broadly redefined to include seasonal puddles, ponds, prairie potholes and intermittent streams.

Parts of the proposed rules include coverage of storm drains and roadside ditches. In the past, storm drainage systems belonging to municipal utilities have been exempted from the most expensive permit procedures covered by the EPA Clean Water Act, Section 404. If the new rules are accepted, this would change. Municipal utility officials would then have to obtain permits from the EPA for modifications, improvements, or additions to their stormwater drainage systems of roadside ditches. Adding these permits to their ledger could blow out operating budgets, and ruin project scheduling for these utilities.

Critics of the proposed regulation fear that if approved, the EPA will micromanage already small municipalities. For example, the EPA could control how much fertilizer landscape contractors could apply to the lawns of homeowners that happen to live in watersheds that meet their broad jurisdiction. The EPA could claim jurisdiction by arguing that the rain falling on a front lawn washes into storm drains that flow into a navigable waterway hundreds of miles downstream.