FARMINGTON — San Juan County Commissioners on Tuesday passed a resolution opposing a proposed Clean Water Act rule change that officials say would encumber the county's permitting process.
"What we have today is almost overwhelming in itself," County Public Works Director Dave Keck said.
The rule change proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would expand water sources protected under the Clean Water Act, according to the federal register listing the proposed rule.
But Keck and a National Association of Counties spokesman say the change is overreaching and would increase permitting costs and wait times.
Efforts to reach EPA officials for comment were not successful.
Brian Namey, a spokesman for the National Association of Counties, said "dozens" of counties nationally have passed similar resolutions opposing the rule change.
He would not specify how many counties his organization knows of that oppose the proposed rule change, but he said, "We anticipate an increasing number of resolutions in the coming weeks and months."
The county commission passed its resolution unanimously, though Commissioner GloJean Todacheene was absent. The county plans to now send a copy of the document to the National Association of Counties to aid its lobbying efforts.
Keck said the rule change would require the county permit nearly all surface water sources draining into rivers or major tributaries.
The public works department most often applies for three types of permits, and that's already taxing, he said. Two of those permits enforce environmentally safe river construction, and the other ensures storm water that falls on construction sites is contained.
Applying and qualifying for more permits would be nearly impossible, Keck said. He said his office would "grind to a halt."
"I think it's overreaching. When you're talking about these small drainages that may take miles and miles before the water even reaches a main river — by that time it's kind of cleansed itself," he said.
Keck doesn't object to complying with environmental rules, he said, but the rule change wouldn't improve water quality.
Commission Chairman Jack Fortner said the county wants to govern without interference from state and federal officials.
He said the county's federal representatives often listen to the county.
"I hope they listen to this," he said.