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WOTUS is really ‘Woe Unto Us!’

By |  August 5, 2015 0 Comments

jacksonThe new Waters of the U.S. regulatory effort by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers, known as WOTUS, is so far reaching it is more of a PR project to give the appearance of protecting the environment rather than contributing to real progress in preventing direct dumping of pollutants into our nation’s water bodies.

The direct dumping of treated sewage by municipal and private water treatment plants into rivers, bays and oceans that goes on 24/7/365 is ripe for intervention.

But the EPA and the Corps seem to want to generate permit fee dollars by designating as dangerous seasonally wet ditches, swales, wetlands, ponds and lakes on golf courses and other remote locations. They say these areas “might” overflow into a creek that connects to a stream that makes its way to a bay that might carry “possible pollutants” to the ocean on an outgoing tide.

So a pesticide that has been federally licensed, EPA tested and approved, is applied occasionally to turfgrass “possibly” near one of these newly regulated ditches and is theorized to pollute a “water body of the U.S.” somehow, somewhere. Therefore you must apply and pay for a permit to spray and protect your turfgrass! Meanwhile, sitting on dock of the bay, sewage keeps flowing along. It’s enough to make a grown person cry.

Pretty soon, seagulls pooping on the beach will be trapped and relocated to where, another beach? More ocean and lakeside beaches are closed annually for bacterial pollution than for chemical pollution. Where does the bacteria come from? Can you say sewage treatment plants?

It’s once again the little man who gets tangled up in the red tape. Most golf courses are small businesses and work off small profit margins. All the “do-gooders” see are the ultra-private clubs and resorts featured on TV. They forget about the other daily fee courses that contribute the bulk of play across the U.S. The industry tries, through the GCSAA, to give Congress and EPA a real feel for the environmental stewardship efforts by serious golf course owners and operators.

But the headline-grabbing vultures continuously gain top billing in the media by spewing imaginary scenarios of gloom and doom. Tell me even one — or combined — incidents on a golf course that warrants the WOTUS action. Especially when compared to the Exxon Valdez, the BP oil spill or the most recent Santa Barbara pipeline failure, on top of the daily dumping of treated sewage into our sacred “Waters of the U.S.”

If the EPA and the Corps want to regulate direct inputs into navigable waters, so be it. Golf courses along any of these waters can employ setback, and research shows that nutrients and chemicals are not extremely mobile when applied properly. With the infrequency of such applications and the small amount of sensitive acreage affected, the chances of any statistically significant effect are miniscule. In addition, pest outbreaks and infestations can be disastrous in a short time and often need immediate attention and treatment with no room for permit-filing delays.

We failed thus far via the GCSAA Government Relations efforts to postpone WOTUS pending further review and discussion, along with sensible, fact-based amendments.

So unfortunately, to keep you and your club out of legal trouble you will have to abide by the law of the land, and you’d better do so or become labeled a polluter on the local TV news. If you don’t, “Woe Unto All of Us!”

Note: The GCSAA had a WOTUS workshop online on July 28, 2015. You can contact GCSAA for a transcript or other information that can help you understand your responsibilities and how to comply with new regulations.

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