This Water Issue covers master planning, irrigation systems, disease management, public outreach, wetting agents and other stories intended to offer current best practices and examine how various factors are changing, including in Washington, D.C.
President Donald Trump issued an executive order in late February to withdraw revisions to the 1972 Clean Water Act. The rescinded rules – first introduced by the Obama administration in 2014 – would have changed the definition of Waters of the United States to include smaller creeks, ponds and wetlands, thereby assigning them federal oversight and potentially requiring golf course superintendents to apply for federal permits for chemical sprays near the newly designated waterways.
The existing definition under the 1972 rules gives federal jurisdiction to navigable waters and state oversight to smaller waterways. The problem has always been the definition of “navigable,” which was made no clearer by the 2014 revisions. Trump and newly minted EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt killed the 2014 rules, which were already stayed in federal court, to give better definition to waters that will be federally controlled. Simple language such as “permanent flowing waters” or “tributaries that connect to permanent flowing waters” would be improvements to 2014 revisions, which failed to further define what constitutes a federal waterway despite its more than 107,000 words.
Farm organizations, real-estate developers and golf courses led the charge against the 2014 rules because of their ambiguity. GCSAA has been part of that lobbying effort for better definitions of WOTUS, and it continues to have a seat at the table as the new administration and stakeholders iron out a replacement for the 2014 revisions.
GCSAA Governmental Affairs Director Chava McKeel says Pruitt has indicated that this issue is a top priority and has every indication that the administration will provide a new rule complete with definitions of “navigable” sometime this year. In the meantime, superintendents must adhere to all provisions in the Clean Water Act that predate the 2014 rules.
“It needs to be made clear that while this WOTUS definition is in play and the new definition is on hold, that doesn’t mean the Clean Water Act is not in effect,” McKeel says. “There is an old rule to adhere to, so you need to know what waters are on your course and know what permits might be needed to stay in compliance [of state and federal rules].”
It will likely take well into 2018 and possibly 2019 for any new rule to go through the regulatory and legislative process and be implemented. Additionally, the U.S. Supreme Court has said it plans to review cases concerning WOTUS to determine whether federal courts or state courts have jurisdiction in disputes.
National Golf Day
You can discuss WOTUS rules and other regulatory and legislative issues with your members of Congress April 26 during a legislative action day co-organized by GCSAA as part of National Golf Day. We Are Golf – an industry coalition that also includes the World Golf Foundation, USGA, PGA, National Golf Course Owners Association and others – is organizing Capitol Hill visits for about 120 people to discuss regulatory issues and articulate the financial, environmental and social benefits of golf and golf courses.
New for this year, participants, which include about 90 GCSAA members, will also take part in a National Mall beautification project on April 25.
We all benefit from the $70 billion economic engine of golf, which gives back $3.9 billion each year to charitable causes. GCSAA does an outstanding job representing and serving superintendents in the industry and in the public eye through events like these, and your participation helps them help you.
Support National Golf Day April 26 by using #NGD17 and @wearegolf on Twitter and Instagram.