The Department of the Army Regulatory Program is one of the oldest in the federal government.
There are approximately 1,300 regulators working in 38 Corps district offices nationwide.
Though the landscapes and primary missions may fluctuate across districts, all of the regulatory specialists serve the same role – as protectors of our main life source, water. And the Corps – as a steward of waters in 43 states – is committed to the national goal of no net loss of aquatic resources.
“Regulators protect our nation’s water through the enforcement of the Clean Water Act,” said Andrew Blackburn, regulatory specialist.
The objective of the Clean Water Act is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of our nation’s waters. The law protects streams, lakes, rivers, ponds and wetlands by requiring permits when there is intent to build on or discharge within these waters. Permits, licenses, or similar authorization may also be required by other federal, state and local entities. The Regulatory Program also administers Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, which similarly prohibits the creation of any obstruction to the navigable capacity of any of the waters of the U.S. unless authorized by Congress.
Regulators are committed to protecting the nation’s aquatic resources, while allowing reasonable development through fair, flexible and balanced permit decisions.
Nationwide, regulators review approximately 80,000 permit applications and issue more than 57,000 jurisdictional determinations, annually – less than three percent of all requests for permits are denied.
The Chicago District Regulatory Branch does more than just review permit applications – it makes jurisdictional determinations of wetland locations; ensures compliance with issued permits; investigates violations; restores sites affected by unauthorized work; and deters any future un-permitted activities for essentially all construction activities that occur in the nation’s waters, including wetlands.
Wetlands are areas that are occasionally or permanently flooded by water. They are not only pretty to look at, but serve an important purpose, too. Streams and wetlands are essential to flood reduction, wildlife habitat, and water-quality improvement.
Approximately 49,000 acres of wetlands are restored, created, enhanced or preserved annually through the Corps’ Regulatory Program.
Restoring wetlands is especially important in the Chicago District.
The district’s regulatory boundaries include not only the Chicago region but Lake, Porter and the approximate northern third of LaPorte counties in Indiana. Indiana has lost approximately 85 percent of its wetlands and ranks fourth among the 50 states in proportion of wetland acreage lost.
Regulatory specialists stress the importance of contacting the Corps early in the planning phase for any potential project.
The Corps can help the public understand what is in their permit to avoid violations that may cost time and money, and also to enable successful project completion. When a permit is denied, an applicant may redesign the project and submit a new application.
“Working together with the public, the Corps can help build success and conserve and protect what aquatic resources we have left,” said Blackburn.
For this fiscal year, the Regulatory Branch is planning to reauthorize its Interagency Coordination Agreement on Mitigation Banking. The purpose of wetland mitigation banking is to allow sponsors to purchase credits toward wetland creation, restoration or enhancement to compensate for wetland area lost as a result of authorized, unavoidable impacts of their projects. The Chicago District has played an instrumental role in this preservation effort.
Also, this April, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Corps published for public comment a proposed rule defining the scope of waters protected under the Clean Water Act. The intent is to provide the public with more certainty surrounding jurisdictional determination of waters.
“The goal is to ensure the regulatory definition is consistent with the Clean Water Act, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, and as supported by science,” said Machalek. “We want to provide maximum clarity to the public, as we work to fulfill the Act’s objectives and carry out our mission of protecting water quality, public health, and the environment.”
For more information on the Regulatory Branch and to view other public notices, visit http://bit.ly/permitus.