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August 1, 1996

Comments on the Proposed Reissuance of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Nationwide Permits: Recommendations

  • The Corps should undertake a comprehensive, long-term effort to improve the public information base and promote the public's Right-to-Know about Section 404 permitting. Part of this effort should be to make information on each activity permitted under the Section 404 program available to the public. Corps staff should increase the amount of information maintained on each activity in the Corps database, including the number of acres of wetlands and other waters that will be affected; the impacts on wetlands functions and values resulting from projects; the type of project for which a permit is applied; the precise location, by latitude and longitude, county, and watershed, of the activity. This information should be made freely available to the public, preferably in easy to use electronic form.
  • Before reissuing any of the nationwide permits, the Corps should undertake a comprehensive review of the effects of the nationwide permit program on wetlands and other waters. The purpose of the review should be to determine whether each general permit has minimal, or more than minimal, adverse environmental effects on the aquatic environment. The review should seek to determine, on a watershed-by-watershed basis, whether NW26 and other nationwide permits are allowing for activities that significantly harm the functions and values of wetlands and other water bodies. This review should take advantage of all data available to the Corps, and seek to gather new and more complete information on the operation of the program and the effects of activities that the program authorizes.
  • The Corps should not reissue NW26. By any measure, NW26 will result over the next 5 years in significant adverse effects on wetlands and other water bodies. By EWG's estimation NW26 has already resulted in damage to at least 32,405 acres of wetlands and other waters since 1988; this does not include impacts to wetlands in the 11 Corps districts for which RAMS data are not available, or impacts caused by the many permitted activities of which the Corps maintains no records. Based on data for the most recent year, reissuance of NW26 will likely result in damage to at least 35,000 acres of wetlands over the 5-year life of the permit.