The nation took a step closer to the largest federal land grab in the nation’s history last week, according to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA).

That’s thanks to passage of the Clean Water Restoration Act (CWRA) by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

In basic terms the CRWA (S. 787) would grant the federal government authority of all water – both navigable, which it now presides over, as well as non-navigable.

Without defining and confining federal authority to navigable waters, an NCBA spokesman said, “…the CWRA would expand federal regulatory control to unprecedented levels – essentially putting stock tanks, drainage ditches, any puddle or water feature found on family farms and ranches – potentially even ground water – under the regulatory strong-arm of the federal government.”

Though the bill was amended last week, NCBA officials explain, “The amendment is a smoke screen that allegedly takes care of agricultural concerns by exempting prior-converted croplands from federal jurisdiction. Cattle are generally not grazed on prior-converted croplands, so this amendment does nothing to mitigate the potential damage to livestock production from this legislation. The amendment is a diversion from the real issue, which is the removal of the word ‘navigable’ from the definition of waters.”

NCBA and Public Lands Council oppose the legislation because it obviously infringes on private property rights, but also because it limits the state partnerships and flexibility that have made the current Clean Water Act successful.