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Guest column: A new year, but the same old Corps of Engineers
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It’s not unusual for a new year to usher in new rules, regulations, and laws that can impact the way we live our lives. What’s unusual, and upsetting, is when these changes are made with no public input or little advance notice.

Under President Barack Obama’s lawless administration, we’ve seen more federal agencies acting with impunity than ever before. Unfortunately, thousands of land owners around Lakes Hartwell and Lanier found themselves targeted by overreaching regulations just a few weeks ago.

Property owners living around the lakes managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have been allowed to use lake water for irrigation for decades. To comply with corps requirements, folks were required to spend money out of their own pockets to obtain permits and install corps-approved irrigation pumps.

More than 3,000 Northeast Georgia property owners were shocked to learn that the corps arbitrarily changed its irrigation policy on the first of this year. Many of these individuals already made significant investments and would have to spend even more time and money finding an alternative means of irrigation.

In addition to the practical matters at hand, corps’ lack of transparency leading up to the change was deeply troubling. Like any public agency, the corps has a responsibility to seek out input from those impacted by its rules and respond to reasonable public concern.

Immediately following the corps’ announcement, I called on the agency to explain its decision and release all legal documents pertaining to the change in shore line management plans. In recent weeks, I met with numerous constituents and affected homeowners associations to strategize how to best fight against this burdensome and costly change.

I am pleased that the corps responded to our criticism and reversed course. On Jan. 20, the agency suspended its new irrigation policy and committed to instituting a public comment period prior to implementing additional policy changes.

While the corps’ reversal is a win for Georgia property owners, the fight against the agency’s overreach and for the rights of property owners is ongoing. I created the Army Corps of Engineers Caucus three years ago to draw attention to the challenges facing states and communities that too often find themselves at the mercy of the corps’ unilateral decision making.

The corps has played a vital role in strengthening America’s water infrastructure throughout its history, but the agency’s recent record demonstrates significant room for improvement. The Corps Caucus works to ensure the agency’s proper stewardship of our nation’s financial and environmental resources.

Bureaucratic overreach has become all too common under President Obama, but I’m not about to allow the corps or any agency to impose unilateral regulations on water in our own backyard. I will continue my tireless efforts to hold the corps and all federal agencies accountable to taxpayers – especially the Georgians directly impacted by proposed changes.

U.S. Rep. Doug Collins represents the 9th District in the House of Representatives. Contact him at 1504 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515, 202-225-9893; 210 Washington St. NW, Suite 202, Gainesville 30501, 770-297-3388; dougcollins.house.gov.

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