Golf Course Management

JUL 2019

Golf Course Management magazine is dedicated to advancing the golf course superintendent profession and helping GCSAA members achieve career success.

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28 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 07.19 At National Golf Day, water and pesti- cide issues continued to be a primary part of the conversation with lawmakers in Con- gress and regulators at the EPA and USDA. Naturally, these are topics we in the golf in- dustry discuss year-round with those in gov- ernment, but it was certainly the case at our annual Washington fly-in. A recently released report from the Con- gressional Research Service helps clarify two of those specific matters — the Clean Water Rule, also known as Waters of the United States (WOTUS), and the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). †is report reflects on the 115th Congress (2017-2018) and assesses legislative solutions it considered. Understanding those actions helps us better forecast where they may be headed in the future. WOTUS †e Clean Water Act of 1972 sought to clean up the "nation's waters," but, unfor- tunately, it poorly defined precisely which waters those were. †e implications for land managers, then and now, are enormous be- cause they impact actions and decisions that must be made when doing routine mainte- nance in or around those "navigable waters," as the bill loosely defined them. Over the years, various court rulings, in- cluding three high-profile Supreme Court decisions, brought various interpretations of the law. From case to case, the scope of ju- risdiction for the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — the federal agencies tasked with implementing and enforcing the CWA — varied, further confusing the matter. An attempt by the Obama administra- tion in 2015 to clarify which waters would Clarifying two issues impacting golf course management (advocacy) Michael Lee mlee@gcsaa.org fall under federal jurisdiction resulted in an exceedingly expansive rule leading many, in- cluding GCSAA, to strongly oppose it. †e broad scope of the 2015 rule invited multiple legal challenges involving states, farmers, de- velopers and many others, generally claiming the agencies had gone beyond their statutory authority. †e multiple challenges halted implementation nationwide temporarily, but by 2017, the nationwide stay was lifted, and states not a party to the lawsuit were subject to the 2015 rule. In the nascent days of the Trump ad- ministration, an executive order was issued calling for a repeal of the 2015 rule and re- placing it with one that closer reflected the sense of cooperative federalism found in the CWA, whereby the states play a crucial role in regulating waters within their boundaries. Congress then also attempted to better define a WOTUS through legislation, but, lacking the votes in the Senate to pass CWA reform, failed to produce anything meaningful by the end of 2018, thus putting the agencies back in the driver's seat. Upon releasing a revised rule in 2019, the agencies opened a 60-day comment period to gain public feedback, and GCSAA submitted official comments on behalf of the golf indus - try. Additionally, the agencies hosted a public hearing in Kansas City, Kan., to take further comments in-person from individuals, inter- est groups and the regulated community. Mark Johnson, GCSAA's associate di- rector for environmental programs, and Manhattan, Kan.-based Colbert Hills Golf Course's Matt Gourlay, CGCS, MG, a 16- year association member, each provided tes- timony supporting the proposed rule and highlighting conservation and environmen- tal stewardship at golf courses around the country. (GCSAA comments can be found at http://bit.ly/2IkeaZb; Johnson and Gour- lay's testimony can be found at http://bit. ly/2wCiBsA.) NPDES Understanding which surface waters are regulated by the federal government and which are not is critical for golf course super- intendents because it determines if and when federal permits for spraying or renovation ac- tivities may be required. As explained in the CRS report, "†ere are two basic types of NPDES permits: (1) individual permits for a specific discharger, and (2) general permits covering categories of point sources that have common elements and discharge the same waste types." †e ap- plication of pesticides originally did not fit into either category, and thus never required a federal permit, until litigation brought by en- vironmental groups resulted in new require- ments for applicators when applying pesti- cides in, over or near jurisdictional waters. However, this requirement undermines the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Ro- denticide Act, which authorizes EPA's reg- istration review process, whereby pesticides are tested, labeled and approved for use, in- cluding aquatic use, before coming to mar- ket. Recognizing this regulatory duplication, Congress has attempted to rectify the issue. In the 115th Congress, the House over- whelmingly passed H.R. 953. However, its companion bill in the Senate never got a vote, and the issue went unresolved. GCSAA is encouraged by the steady progress of the current EPA to better de- fine WOTUS, and we will continue to work with Congress to pass meaningful permit- ting reform regarding pesticide applications. If you'd like to get involved in these issues or many others impacting superintendents, please contact GCSAA government affairs at 785-832-3612. To read the CRS report in full, go to http://bit.ly/2WKiHNF. Michael Lee is GCSAA's manager of government affairs. GCSAA's Government Affairs Committee meets with EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler (front row, fourth from left). Photo courtesy of the EPA

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