– Governor Mike Dunleavy took issue with the proposed new definition of WOTUS, United States waters, in comments submitted this week to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the United States Army Corps of Engineers. United States (USACE). The Biden administration is proposing to expand the definition of WOTUS, under which many more Alaskan waters would be designated as WOTUS and therefore fall under federal control.
“Alaska risks being disproportionately affected by the proposed rule, and in particular by the vast expansion of federal jurisdiction it will impose on the states,” said Governor Dunleavy. “Alaska needs regulations that match the diversity and abundance of its waters, not a single rule imposing excessive federal requirements.”
The governor noted that Alaska has far more water than any other state: Alaska has about 900,000 miles of navigable rivers and streams; 22,000 square miles of lakes; nearly 27,000 miles of coastline. Additionally, Alaska has more wetlands than all the other states combined, which cover 43% of the state’s land area.
The comments submitted highlight four areas of concern:
- The proposed rule would expand WOTUS beyond any previous definition, highlighting Congress’ failure to properly define WOTUS in law.
- The science behind the proposed rule is insufficient to support its application to several water categories specific to Alaska.
- The proposed rule prevents Alaska from fulfilling its constitutionally mandated responsibility to manage its own natural resources and infringes on Alaska’s management rights under federal State of Alaska law.
- The proposed rule ignores language in the federal Clean Water Act that “recognizes[s]to preserve[s]and protect[s] the main responsibilities and rights of the State[s]to manage and protect water resources.
“Rest assured that my administration will defend the rights of Alaska and Alaskan landowners,” said Governor Dunleavy.
In his response, Governor Dunleavy requested four exclusions for Alaska from the WOTUS definition based on gaps in the scientific data used to support the proposed rule: (1) Alaskan permafrost wetlands, (2 ) Alaskan Forested Wetlands, (3) Alaskan Mosaic Wetlands, and (4) Alaskan waters and lands that fall under the “other waters” category in the proposed rule.
The full text of Governor Dunleavy’s response is available on the Department of Environmental Conservation’s webpage.