WOTUS Rule Would be ‘Devastating,’ Builder Tells Capitol Hill

Doug Davis (center) offers his brief to Hill staff.

The 2015 rule defining “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) would be devastating for his business, NAHB member Doug Davis told congressional staff at a briefing in Washington, D.C. Dec. 6.

As president and CEO of Fletcher Davis in St. Augustine, Florida, a development firm creating sustainable communities in the Southeast for more than 50 years, Davis explained how the 2015 rule would expand jurisdiction to isolated wetlands more than three-quarters of a mile from a navigable water and require developers to get a federal permit for such features.

“These permits already cost us between $100,000 and a million dollars per project and take anywhere from nine months to over a decade to obtain,” Davis said.

The 2015 WOTUS rule expanded federal jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act to isolated wetlands, channels that only flow when it rains, and most manmade ditches. After facing a firestorm of litigation, it was quickly placed under a nationwide stay by the federal courts in October 2015.

The Trump Administration is attempting to roll back the rule and replace it with a more commonsense regulation that limits federal Clean Water Act authority: consistent with the intent of Congress and Supreme Court precedent.

Yet the 2015 rule isn’t dead yet, and small businesses like Fletcher Davis fear if by chance it survives, it will harm their livelihoods.

“As part of a development philosophy that protects natural systems, we inventory the land in order to protect high quality wetlands, habitat, and cultural resources,” said Davis. “Yet, federal regulations protecting waters and wetlands are already so overwhelming under existing rules that the 2015 WOTUS rule would be devastating to my business,” he said.

Davis, joined at the event by Montana Attorney General Tim Fox and representatives from the Farm Bureau and the National Sand Stone and Gravel Association, Davis pointed out to Hill staffers that many of the features the WOTUS rule would cover are already protected by the states.

“If put in place, it would create duplicative regulations without added environmental benefits. The cost of our projects would go through the roof and ultimately decrease the affordability of the homes and communities we build.

“Even without the 2015 WOTUS rule in place today, there’s a lot of questions about Clean Water Act jurisdiction and the role of state and local regulations,” Davis said, stressing the need for a new rule that provides clarity for land owners while simultaneously allowing for responsible growth.

For additional information, contact Courtney Briggs at 202-266-8459 or Owen McDonough at 202-266-8662.

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