HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
September 17, 2007, Herald Journal

Land use control bill coming


Watch out for a big power grab coming our way over who controls our land.

US Rep. Jim Oberstar, (D-Minn.) has a bill he hopes his transportation committee will vote on in October.

Oberstar wants to broaden the definition of federally protected waters in the 1972 Clean Water Act, which was basically confined to navigable waters, to include all ponds, ditches, prairie potholes, saturated soils, and essentially anything that is wet. The bill also puts all activities affecting these “waters” under federal control, according to Linda Runbeck of the American Property Coalition.

The bill is called H.R. 2421.

“If enacted, this bill threatens all property value as it gives the EPA/Corp of Engineers virtually unfettered authority over your ability to turn a shovel on your land (it might affect a “waters”) and consequently, to build, develop land, farm, mine, log, and operate a business. It also will affect those who use land (public or private) for outdoor recreation,” she said.

The most dangerous part of this bill to property rights is “activities affecting these waters.” We all want clean water. Obviously, we don’t want people pouring a hazardous waste directly into a pond on their back-forty.

However, everything we do “affects” our environment, and ultimately, the water. Even if we sat motionless in a chair, we still would be breathing in oxygen, exhaling carbon dioxide, and changing our environment.

If you wanted to build a garage on your home, for example, it would change the way rainwater flows across the surface of your yard. A pond within a half-mile of your home, would be “affected” by the change in the rainwater flow. It’s possible, with H.R. 2421, the federal government could prevent you from building a garage.

“This bill pushes the limits of federal power to an extreme not matched by any other law, probably in the history of the country,” Reed Hopper testified before Congress in August.

Hopper was the lead attorney in the Rapanos v. US property rights victory in 2006.

In the US Supreme Court case, John Rapanos of Midland, Mich. filled with sand 54 acres of wetland 20 miles from navigable water. Oberstar believes because the area was in a tributary’s watershed, the US Supreme Court was wrong in deciding in favor of the property owner, according to Oberstar’s communications’ director John Schadl.

Underground waters need federal protection because they are shared by several states. The Ogallala aquifer under Nebraska, for example, is shared by eight states, Schadl said.

Oberstar is attempting to restore the Clean Water Act, to how it had “teeth,” before the Rapanos case, Schadl said last Monday.

I don’t want the feds to have “teeth,” restored or not, when it comes to my property.

Contact your US representative before H.R. 2421 goes any further.

US Rep. Collin Peterson, D-7th District, is at (202) 225-2165. US Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-6th District, is at (202)225-2331. US. Rep. John Kline, R, 2nd District, is at (202) 225-2271.

Oberstar is at (202) 225-6211, fax (202) 225-0699. His Brainerd phone number is (218) 828-4400. His web site is www.oberstar.house.gov/, where he can be reached by e-mail if you live in the 8th district.