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Firefighters now worry about water regulations
Grass is always greener...
Don GardnerColor
Don Gardner is a University of Georgia Extension agent who lives in Bryan County. - photo by File photo

There is a truism that says California leads the way. Whatever is happening in California will make its way to the East Coast in a few years.

For the following example let’s hope not. You have read here and hopefully elsewhere about the battle going on over the new Waters Of The United States (WOTUS) Rule promulgated by EPA. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers initially did not support the new rule but, EPA put the USACOE’s name on it anyway.

Then EPA was caught colluding with environmentalist groups to stuff the comment box with positive comments to make it appear there was more support for the new rule than there actually was. Now it is law and the real problems begin.

Opponents of the new rule argued that the language of the Clean Water Act was clear and easy to understand and comply with, while the new WOTUS rule confused things. The new WOTUS rule muddied the waters.

For instance, I cut and pasted the below from the Clean Water Act:

323.4 Discharges not requiring permits.

(a) General. Except as specified in paragraphs (b) and (c) of this section, any discharge of dredged or fill material that may result from any of the following activities is not prohibited by or otherwise subject to regulation under section 404: ...

(i) Normal farming, silviculture and ranching activities such as plowing, seeding, cultivating, minor drainage, and harvesting for the production of food, fiber, and forest products, or upland soil and water conservation practices, as defined in paragraph (a)(1)(iii) of this section.

But now it has been reported that senior wetlands specialists with the Corps in California have advised private industry compliance consultants that any plowing, even plowing for fire breaks, now requires a permit. On average it takes a long time and $270,000 to get a 404 permit from the Corps.

What do firefighters do when a lightning strike starts a fire like the recent Sand Fire in California that as of this writing has consumed more than 38,000 acres, taken two human lives, one of them a firefighter, and destroyed 18 homes>? Let me get this straight. So the firefighters are supposed to take plowing fire breaks out of their firefighting tool bag?

What’s next: the firefighters cannot take water from nearby lakes and reservoirs to fight the fire until a Finding Of No Significant Impact is issued on the Environmental Impact Statement they had to file two years before the lightning even struck?

And this is protecting the environment, property and human life, how exactly?

Oh, but that’s in California you say. That’s just the usual California craziness. It’ll never happen here. I could have agreed with you years ago, but not today. Agriculture is and has always been Georgia’s number one industry. Most everybody was a farmer or came from a farm family. Many of our U.S. representatives and U.S. senators came from farming backgrounds or were themselves farmers.

Today, however, not one of our 14 congressmen from Georgia is or was a farmer. They may hear the words, but do they comprehend the meaning?

Two thirds of the land in Georgia is in managed timber production. One of the core services of the Georgia Forestry Commission is wildfire control. I hope no one has forgotten the Waycross Fire of 2007.

It’s hot and it’s dry. It could happen again and closer to us. We have a lot of private timber and public lands — like our wildlife management areas — all over the south end of the county. Let’s just say this is a target rich environment for wildfire.

I witnessed the Georgia Forestry Commission attack a wildfire right here in Bryan County a few years back. They used bulldozers to plow firebreaks to control the fire and save a home just 200 yards from the flames. They were all moving and it was all business. It reminded me of Dana Perrino on Fox News interviewing a U.S. Navy Seal about all the countries he had been sent to.

"Did you have to learn several languages?"

"No ma’m, we don’t go there to talk."

I have seen Forestry Commission foresters risk their lives to save people and property no less heroically than our domestic first responders. I suggest we should not let officious idiocy take a major tool out of the hands of those who help protect us from wildfire.

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