Recent Changes in Wetland Regulations

Environmental Training Resource
August 16, 2013 — 4,048 views  
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Wetlands serve several functions such as flood storage and control, wildlife habitat, habitat for endangered animal and plant species, water quality protection, educational resources, aesthetics and open space, fisheries habitat, recreation, and erosion control. So wetlands play a critical role in maintaining a balance in the environment. As per the changes in the wetland regulations, the amount of area to be covered under the wetlands will increase.

Recent Changes to the Regulation

In the new wetland regulations, the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have released an updated guidance which expands the meaning of areas of wetlands that are to be covered by the Clean Water Act. The EPA and USACE claim that all waters will be regulated and subject to permits and protection, and therefore a landowner will gain on time as he will not have to wait for a jurisdictional determination from the USACE.

Currently, a permit is not required to develop non-jurisdictional isolated wetlands. Under the altered wetland regulations, if the wetland areas can support recreational use, the areas will be subject to the USACE permit process and protected under the Clean Water Act.

What do the Changes Mean?

These changes in the wetland regulations could affect landowners and farms across the country. Landowners who plan to fill areas that were previously not considered wetlands would need to go through a federal permitting process.

Under Section 404 permit program of the Clean Water Act, several guidelines have been stated. The program guidelines state that discharge of dredged or fill materials into waters of the United States is a punishable offence. The environmental quality standards need to be maintained. Also, any unavoidable impacts on the water found due to the discharge of fill material need to be fully compensated for by the party found guilty. The Water protection permit program also protects the water in these wetlands from getting polluted.

Currently, the EPA is partnering with the Corps on a number of important efforts in the Section 404 program including the implementation of national guidance on program jurisdiction in response to the Supreme Court decision.

Keeping up with the Changes

Farmers were using several plots of land earlier as wetlands and irrigating them. The recent changes in the regulations now require them to develop the land only once they have received the permit. The more stringent water and environmental quality policies are causing a challenge to the already irrigated farmlands of the farmers.

Several farmers are of the opinion that the process is more cumbersome and expensive. The American economy needs a boost and growth in terms of jobs, and agriculture can spur the growth and provide employment. On the contrary, the process of Wetland regulation and the newly altered laws creates a barrier to the growth of agriculture and the country’s economic growth overall. Despite these opinions the altered Wetland regulations were created trying to keep in mind the need to better the environmental quality and ease the process of assessment of the waterways and wetlands.

Environmental Training Resource

There are some recent changes going on in wetland regulations by the EPA and US Army Corps of Engineers. This article highlights those changes and how they will affect the community and environmental areas.