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

Comments on the Proposed Reissuance of the US Army Corps of Engineers' Nationwide Permits

Thursday, August 1, 1996

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

Comments on the Proposed Reissuance of the US Army Corps of Engineers' Nationwide Permits

Section 404 of the federal Clean Water Act gives the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers responsibility for protecting rivers, lakes, streams and wetlands from the effects of dredging, draining and filling. The Corps' primary procedure for regulating these activities is the issuance of permits for a range of activities that alter these water bodies and related wetlands. To lighten its workload, the Corps has issued blanket authorizations, known as nationwide permits, that allow thousands of developers, farmers and others to conduct literally thousands of supposedly routine activities in wetlands and other waters without individual scrutiny from the Corps. The Clean Water Act allows for the use of nationwide permits, recognizing that many minor activities can take place in wetlands or other waters without significant damage. However, to make sure that the nationwide permitting authority is not abused, the Clean Water Act only allows nationwide permits that both individually and cumulatively have minimal impacts on the aquatic environment.

Despite the requirement for minimal impacts, the Corps' nationwide permit program has been widely criticized for allowing unnecessary, and largely undocumented, damage to wetlands, streams, lakes and other water bodies. In particular, Nationwide Permit 26 (NW26), which authorizes activities that can destroy up to 10 acres of isolated waters or headwater streams, has been seen as a significant loophole for wetlands losses, permitting the destruction of thousands of acres of wetlands every year.

In spite of these criticisms, on June 17, 1996 the Corps proposed to reissue its existing nationwide permits, including NW26, for a term of five years. In addition, the Corps proposed to add several new permits that may authorize even greater wetlands losses under the nationwide permit program. One of the new permits would automatically approve many sand and gravel mining operations in wetlands, streams and lakes--operations that can harm water quality and damage fish and wildlife habitat.

These comments present a new analysis of data obtained from the Corps of Engineers. We found that the nationwide permit program has, indeed, led to the destruction of thousands of acres of wetlands and significant damage to other water bodies. We also found very significant gaps in existing information--gaps sufficiently large that we recommend a major improvement in information about wetlands conservation and losses before any extension or expansion of existing permit authorities.

Nationwide Permits Have Significant Impacts

In response to a federal Freedom of Information Act request, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers provided Environmental Working Group in July 1996 with data from its Regulatory Analysis and Management System (RAMS) for permits issued under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. RAMS data were available for 27 of the 38 Corps districts covering the majority of the contiguous United States, and included a record of many activities that were authorized under the nationwide permit program.(Note 1) EWG analyzed these data for these comments, and presents the information on our World Wide Web site.

At least 136,908 activities recorded for these 27 districts in the Corps of Engineers' RAMS database from 1988 through June 1996 were authorized under one or more of the existing nationwide permits. Acreage could not be determined for most of these permits; only 23,749 activities (17 percent) represented in RAMS had valid entries on the acreage affected by the activity. However, for those activities with a valid acreage record, EWG confirmed that at least 16,464 acres of wetlands and other waters were affected by nationwide permits. Based on the available data, EWG estimates that at least 81,981 acres of wetlands and other waters across the country between 1988 and June 1996 were affected by activities authorized by nationwide permits in the RAMS databases of 27 districts studied.

Data on activities authorized under nationwide permits are more complete for 1995 than for previous years. In 1995, RAMS data indicate that 29,042 activities were authorized under nationwide permits in the districts examined. Based on the available acreage data (8,828 of these activities--30 percent--had a valid acreage record), EWG estimates that 15,552 acres of wetlands and other waters were affected in 1995 alone by the nationwide permit program in the 27 Corps Districts. If this rate were maintained over the coming years, more than 75,000 acres of wetlands and other waters could be damaged over the 5-year lifetime of the nationwide permits.

Nationwide Permit #26 (NW26), which authorizes activities that can destroy up to 10 acres of isolated waters or headwaters, has been the most commonly used of all nationwide permits. It also has had by far the largest acreage impact of any nationwide permit. Of the 29,042 activities that were authorized in 1995 under the nationwide permit program, 9,462 activities (32.5 percent) were authorized under NW26, according to our analysis. EWG estimates that in 1995 alone, NW26 accounted for impacts to an estimated 7,432 acres out of 15,552 acres (48 percent) of all wetlands and other waters affected by the program in the 27 Corps districts examined.

In selected areas, the impacts of NW26 were particularly severe. In 16 counties, EWG could confirm that more than 100 acres of wetlands were affected by activities authorized under NW26 from 1988 through June, 1996. While mitigation (usually, restoration or creation of other wetlands or other water) was required for some of these activities, there is no indication in RAMS of whether mitigation projects were successful, or whether mitigation projects were even initiated by the permittee. Based on the limited available records, and assuming that permitting rates over the next 5 years remain at 1995 levels, EWG estimates that NW26 will be responsible for damage to at least 100 acres of wetlands and other waters in a minimum of 63 counties in the 27 Corps districts examined.

RAMS data indicate that only 17.8 percent of activities authorized under NW26 affect more than one acre of wetlands or other waters. However, these permits account for 64.3 percent of all acres affected by the program. Similarly, only 6.6 percent of activities affect between 3 and 10 acres of wetlands, but such activities account for 40.5 percent of total acreage impacts. Eliminating the application of NW26 to activities affecting more than one acre could reduce the impacts of NW26 significantly.

RAMS data are incomplete, but still point to significant wetlands losses

It is likely that EWG's estimates of the acreage affected by NW26 and the other nationwide permits significantly understate the actual acreage affected by the program. EWG based its estimates on data obtained in a federal Freedom of Information Act request for data from RAMS database systems maintained in 27 separate district offices. Comparable data were not available for the other 11 Corps districts, including four districts with very large wetlands acreages: New Orleans, Norfolk (Virginia), Charleston (South Carolina) and Anchorage (Alaska) districts. Furthermore, even in those districts for which RAMS data were available, the Corps has stated that it does not have complete information on all activities authorized under nationwide permits. In its preliminary assessment of the environmental impacts of NW26, the Corps estimated that 26,000 activities take place under the permit each year, nearly three times as many as are represented in the RAMS data that EWG obtained from the Corps. For other nationwide permits, RAMS data also significantly understate the total number of activities that the Corps estimates are authorized each year (Table 1, Note 2).

If the 9,462 activities authorized under NW26 and in RAMS are representative of the activities that the Corps believes are taking place under nationwide permits, but for which the Corps has no data, NW26 may affect as many as 20,000 acres of wetlands and other waters each year. Until better information is available, it is impossible to determine the effects of an extension or expansion of general permit authority on America's wetlands.

Table 1: The Corps' RAMS database significantly understates the number of activities that the Corps believes are taking place 

 

Nationwide Permit Total Activities in RAMS Database, 1995 Total Annual Activities as Estimated by Corps Percent by which RAMS Underestimates Actual Permitting
         
NW02: Structures in Canals 181 2,600 93%
NW03: Maintenance 3,542 20,000 82%
NW05: Scientific Measurement Devices 48 700 93%
NW06: Survey Activities 98 3,000 97%
NW07: Outfall Structures 339 1,600 79%
NW08: Oil and Gas Structures 0 114 100%
NW12: Utility Line Backfill/Bedding 4,989 12,100 59%
NW13: Bank Stabilization 4,218 12,000 65%
NW14: Road Crossings 2,656 13,000 80%
NW15: Coast Guard Approved Bridges 50 200 75%
NW17: Hydropower Projects 4 20 80%
NW18: Minor Discharges 1,452 7,000 79%
NW20: Oil Spill Cleanup 34 50 32%
NW23: Approved Categorical Exclusions 671 1,500 55%
NW25: Sturctural Damage 101 1,000 90%
NW26: Isolated Waters and Headwaters 9,462 26,000 64%
NW27: Wetlands Restoration 356 8,000 96%
NW36: Boat Ramps 245 600 59%

Source: Environmental Working Group. Compiled from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Data.

The Corps Needs To Do a Better Job of Promoting the Public's Right-to-Know

Despite its limitations, RAMS represents the most complete and comprehensive database of wetlands permitting in the country. It is not clear, however, that the Corps utilized its RAMS database in evaluating the effects of nationwide permits. For example, in preparing its environmental impact analysis for NW26, the Corps makes no reference to the acreage of wetlands and other waters that are likely to be destroyed or damaged by the permit, even though some information upon which such estimates could be based is available in RAMS. The Corps also has offered no county-by-county, or even state-by-state analyses of the effects of nationwide permits--even though these analyses can be undertaken (albeit with some limitations) through a careful review of RAMS data.

The Corps appears to have made only limited efforts to improve the public information base on the effects of NW26 and the other nationwide permits. In practically every other area of environmental law, protecting and fostering the public's Right-to-Know--the right to useful, credible information on the effects of environmental programs and decisions--is a crucial component of environmental protection. However, the public has very little useful information on the effects of the Section 404 program, particularly the Corps' general permitting authorities. RAMS data, for example, are woefully inadequate for many relevant analyses, including basic accounting of the functions and values lost (and gained) through Section 404 permits, on a county-by-county and watershed-by-watershed basis.

The Corps has had ample opportunity to investigate, review and collect information on its general permitting program over the last 5 years, and to make this information available to the public. Nevertheless, the available data, including data from RAMS, are insufficient to make a complete and accurate accounting of the effects of NW26 and the other nationwide permits across the country. Because of poor record-keeping, a lack of active, consistent efforts to monitor the effects of its own actions, and a practice of consistently underutilizing even the limited data that are available to it, the Corps has not succeeded in documenting its claim that nationwide permits, particularly NW26, have minimal environmental impacts. Furthermore, it appears that the limited data available on the effects of NW26 contradict the Corps' claim that the nationwide permit program has minimal environmental effects.

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.

About EWG's Nationwide Permitting Data

The Corps' RAMS database is designed primarily as a workload tracking and management system for Corps staff. Corps regulatory personnel use RAMS to estimate the number of staff hours devoted to processing permits, for simple correspondence with parties to a permit action, for notes about a permit's location and size, for tracking of the dates and times of steps in the permit process, and for a variety of other purposes. Many district offices use RAMS for quarterly regulatory reports that are forwarded to Corps headquarters in Washington, DC. Headquarters staff use these quarterly reports to monitor staffing and workload requirements of the district offices, and to evaluate the performance of Corps district offices. Districts that use RAMS for quarterly reporting generally enter information on all activities authorized under Corps permits of which they are aware.

Although RAMS does represent the most comprehensive database on regulatory actions taken under Section 404 by the Corps of Engineers, it is not, and should not be considered, a comprehensive list of all actions that the Corps has authorized. Some Corps districts have taken pains to back-enter Section 404 permits that were issued before the district began using RAMS, while other districts have notable gaps in permit information, particularly for general permits that were issued before the district's RAMS database system was fully operational. In addition, Corps staff are not notified of all activities authorized through its comprehensive general permitting authority, and may not enter some permits into the RAMS database.

How EWG Interpreted RAMS Nationwide Permitting Data

Each activity in a wetland or other water body that requires some form of action by Corps regulatory staff--a permit issued, denied, or withdrawn, a wetlands jurisdictional determination performed, or even a finding that no permit is required--is represented the RAMS system by a unique 'action ID' number. Each 'action ID' is assigned a special status code when some final regulatory determination is made by the Corps staff. Typically 'final status' codes indicate that a permit has been issued, denied or withdrawn. Just as a single housing project or road may affect several different streams or wetlands, one 'action ID' in the RAMS system may have several 'final status' codes, indicating that more than one permit was issued for a single project.

For the purpose of analysis, EWG examined all instances between January 1988 and June 1996 for which an 'action ID' in the RAMS database entered a 'final status,' indicating that a nationwide permit had been issued. EWG considered each of these 'final status' codes to correspond to one activity that was authorized by a nationwide permit. In all, nearly 137,000 final nationwide permit authorizations were represented in the in the database for the 27 Corps districts using RAMS.

For most nationwide permits, the RAMS system indicated that the activity was authorized under a specific nationwide permit. However, for some 'action IDs' no nationwide permit authorization was indicated. EWG counted these as nationwide permits of 'unknown' type.

For some 'action IDs' more than one nationwide permit was indicated. An examination of the notes accompanying some of these permits revealed that multiple associated with a single 'action ID' often indicated that a single activity was covered under two or more nationwide authorizations (for instance, one utility project might be covered both by the nationwide permit for utility backfill and by the permit for minor discharges). However, EWG found some cases in which several distinct activities were grouped under a single 'action ID'--for example, a development project involving several distinct utility lines, road crossings, and minor discharges into wetlands, all grouped together under a single 'action ID.' In such cases, EWG assumed that the permits in RAMS represented several separate uses of the different nationwide permits, rather than several similar activities all covered by several different nationwide permits.

Because a single action could be authorized by more than one nationwide permit, EWG's tally of the number of wetlands permits authorized in a given region was sometimes less than the sum of the number of actions permitted under the various nationwide permits.

Estimating the acreage affected by nationwide permits

Estimating acreage of wetlands and other waters affected by nationwide permits posed particular difficulties. The majority of nationwide permit actions contained no record of the number of acres affected by the permit. EWG is aware of not other source of information that would provide insight about the acreage impacts of Section 404 permits. Of the nearly 137,000 final nationwide permits in its permitting database, EWG found only 23,749 permits with some non-zero entry for acreage. Information on the acreage of wetlands mitigated was even more sparse. Furthermore, the average acreage affected by nationwide permits varied by year; varied significantly by state and Corps district, and varied even more significantly by the type of nationwide permit.

Although the acreage information in RAMS was limited, EWG did use the available data to estimate the actual acreage of wetlands and other waters affected by each permit in each region. Estimates of the acreage of wetlands or other waters affected by a particular nationwide permit in a state were conducted as follows:

If there was a significant number of permits of a particular type in a particular county in a particular year, with valid acreage estimates from the Corps, (e.g., more than 50 issuances of a particular nationwide permit in a particular county in 1995 with valid acreage data) , EWG assumed that all permits of that type, in that region, in that year, had the same average acreage as the permits in that year for which acreage data were available.

If there was not a significant number of permits of a particular type in a particular county in a particular year, EWG determined whether there was a significant number of permits of that type in that county from 1988 through 1996. If so, EWG assumed that all permits of that type, in that county, in that year, had the same average acreage as the permits of that type from 1988 through 1996.

If there was not a significant number of permits of a particular type in that county from 1988 through 1996, EWG determined whether there was a significant number of permits of that type in the state from 1988 through 1996. If so, EWG assumed that all permits of that type, in that county, in that year, had the same average acreage as the permits of that type from 1988 through 1996 in the state.

If there was not a significant number of permits in the state from 1988 through 1996, EWG assumed that permits with missing acreage data had the same impact as the national average for that permit. When several different nationwide permit numbers were associated with a single 'action ID', EWG apportioned the acreage among the various permits indicated.

Because of data inadequacies referenced above, EWG's estimates are subject to substantial uncertainties and significant sources of potential error:

Possible sources of underestimation:

  • Permitting data missing from the RAMS system. According to the data currently in the Corps' RAMS system, fewer than 7,000 activities were authorized under the nationwide permit program in 1988, but 29,000 activities were authorized in 1995. Although the use of nationwide permits may have increased somewhat from 1988 to 1995, the bulk of this apparent increase is due to gaps in RAMS data in earlier years. Most districts began using RAMS in the early 1990's, and many of these districts did not enter a significant amount of permit data, particularly for general permits, for actions authorized before their RAMS systems went on-line. Because permit data for early years are incomplete, it is likely that EWG's wetlands permitting database significantly underestimates, perhaps by as much as one-half, the number of activities authorized by nationwide permits and the acreage affected by the program.
  • Permits not entered into RAMS. Most Corps districts have made a concerted effort to enter new permits into RAMS. However, some Corps district staff admit that there are still some permitted activities that are not entered into the RAMS system (Note 3). Permits not entered into the RAMS system, either by accident or oversight, may result in undercounting of the number of activities and the acreage impacts that have taken place under the nationwide permit program.
  • Activities of which the Corps is not aware. Corps staff can enter data into RAMS only when they know of an activity that is authorized under a permit. However, many nationwide permits give blanket authority for permittees to undertake projects in wetlands or other waters without notifying the Corps. NWP #26, for example, requires a permittee to notify the Corps only when an activity would affect more than one acre of jurisdictional waters; for activities one acre or less, no notification is required, and the activity can proceed without the knowledge of Corps staff. The Corps itself has estimated that more activities are authorized under nationwide permits without the Corps' knowledge as are authorized with the Corps' knowledge (Note 4). EWG's permit estimates derived from RAMS data may, therefore, very substantially understate the number and acreage of permits issued under the nationwide permit program, particularly for permits that do not require notification.
  • Permits without a specified location. For 2,900 of the 136,908 permits (2.1 percent) in the Corps' database, the precise county or state in which the permit was issued could not be determined. Data gaps in the location of permitted actions were highest in the Memphis district, where nearly 23 percent of nationwide permits in RAMS could not be identified in a particular county or state. Smaller, but still significant numbers of permits in the Kansas City district (7.5 percent), Mobile district (7.0 percent) and St. Louis district (6.8 percent) could not be located within a particular state. Although such data gaps do not affect EWG's totals for the number or acreage of permits issued by Corps districts, they may reduce totals for particular states or counties.

Possible sources of acreage overestimation:

  • Small sample sizes. In many cases, EWG's estimates for the acreage affected by a particular permit in a county or state were based on a comparatively small number of valid acreages in RAMS. In general, small sample sizes increase the likelihood of error in making acreage estimates. For example, only 59 of the 1,428 activities (4 percent) authorized under NWP #3 (for maintenance of existing structures) in Maryland were associated with valid records of permit acreage. There is no way to tell from the RAMS data alone whether these 59 permits with valid acreages were a representative sampling of all 1,428 activities authorized under NWP #3. If Corps staff were more likely to record the acreage for activities with particularly large impacts, the limited sample sizes may have led EWG to overestimate the acreage affected by a given permit in a region.
  • Permits of unknown type. For 23,486 activities authorized under nationwide permits, RAMS did not specify the number of the particular nationwide permit that covered the activity. Of these permits, only 373 (1.6 percent) have valid acreage information in the RAMS database. These 373 permits accounted for 328.4 acres of wetlands and other waters, or an average of nearly 0.9 acres each. In estimating the acreage impacts of permits of unknown type, EWG assumed that all permits of unknown type had the same average acreage as the unknown permits for which acreage was available. This may have led to an overestimation of the acreage of wetlands or other waters affected by permits of unknown type, particularly if Corps staff were more likely to record acreage information for permits affecting a large acreage.
  • Permits affecting 'zero' acres. In some cases, final nationwide permits in the RAMS database are associated with data indicating that zero acres of wetlands or other waters were affected by a permit. It is unlikely that all of these permits affected zero acres--presumably, the Corps would not say that an activity is covered by a nationwide if it does not affect any of a wetland or other water body. It many of these cases, it is likely that Corps staff created a data record for acreage information in the RAMS database, but never actually entered the acreage data. In making acreage estimates, EWG treated 'zero acre' permits as if no acreage record existed for that activity. However, an alternate interpretation of 'zero acre' permits is that they affect a negligible or insignificant acreage of wetlands or other waters. To the extent that 'zero acre' permits represent activities with little or no acreage impacts, EWG may have overestimated the acreage affected by some nationwide permits.

It is important to note that impacts to wetlands or other waters, as represented in RAMS, do not necessarily correspond with losses of acreage. Some nationwide permits may authorize activities in wetlands or other water bodies that have little or no adverse impacts. For example, EWG estimates that 3,383 acres of wetlands or other waters in the 27 Corps districts examined were 'affected' by NWP #27 (for wetland and riparian restoration and creation activities). While some of these effects may have been harmful to some ecological functions and values (as when wetlands are 'restored' by being converted into deep water habitats), it is likely that wetlands functions and values for a significant portion of these acres were preserved or improved. In addition, compensatory mitigation may have been performed for some of the permits authorized under the nationwide permit program. EWG's totals for acreage impacts, therefore, should not be interpreted as indicating a net loss of acreage, but merely an estimate of the scope of the nationwide permit program's impacts on wetlands and other waters.

Geographic Scope of the Data

In January, 1996, EWG filed a Freedom of Information Act request for information on Clean Water Act Section 404 permits contained the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers RAMS (Regulatory Analysis and Management System) database. This database system is employed by 27 of the 36 Corps district offices in the contiguous U.S., including:

  • Sacramento, covering central and eastern California, Nevada, Utah and western Colorado
  • Los Angeles, covering southern California and Arizona
  • San Francisco, covering northern California
  • Portland, covering Oregon
  • Seattle, covering Washington state
  • Walla Walla, covering Idaho
  • Omaha, covering Nebraska, northeastern Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota
  • Kansas City, covering Kansas and northern and western Missouri
  • Little Rock, covering southern Missouri and northern Arkansas
  • Tulsa, covering Oklahoma and northern Texas
  • Albuquerque, covering New Mexico, southeastern Colorado, and western Texas
  • Fort Worth, covering central Texas and a sliver of northwestern Louisiana
  • Galveston, covering the Gulf coast of Texas and a the far western portion of coastal Louisiana
  • St. Paul, covering Minnesota and Wisconsin
  • Chicago, covering the counties surrounding Chicago
  • Detroit, covering Michigan and northern Indiana
  • St. Louis, covering eastern Missouri and western Indiana
  • Memphis, covering small portions of Missouri, Illinois, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi
  • Vicksburg, covering northern Louisiana, western Alabama and southern Arkansas
  • Louisville, covering central Kentucky and Indiana, eastern Illinois and western Ohio
  • Mobile, covering most of Alabama and eastern Mississippi
  • Jacksonville, covering Florida
  • Savannah, covering Georgia
  • Wilmington, covering North Carolina
  • Baltimore, covering Maryland, central Pennsylvania and south central New York
  • Philadelphia, eastern Pennsylvania, Delaware, a portion of southeastern New York, and southern New Jersey
  • New York, covering eastern New York state and northern New Jersey.

The New England, Norfolk, Charleston, Rock Island, Pittsburgh, Huntington, Nashville, Buffalo and New Orleans, Alaska and Honolulu districts of the Corps either do not use RAMS, or are on a different RAMS system that was not compatible with those of the above districts when this analysis was prepared.

The 27 Corps districts that use RAMS cover the majority of the land area of the contiguous United States. However, there are a number of states for which EWG has no permit data, and other states where data are only partially complete. Table 2 summarizes data for the 28 states covered entirely by Corps districts for which RAMS data were available.

In addition to these states, the majority of the land area of Alabama and Mississippi is covered by Corps districts using RAMS; a few northern counties in those states are covered by the Nashville district, which does not use RAMS. RAMS data are available for almost all of Missouri, for eastern portions of both New York and Pennsylvania, for northern Louisiana, and for portions of Illinois, including the Chicago metropolitan area. For the rest of the states, RAMS data are completely or partially unavailable. Michigan and New Jersey have assumed authority for issuing Section 404 permits in non-navigable waters. RAMS data include permits issued by the Corps, but do not include permits issued by state agencies.

Table 2: Nationwide permit data were available for the entirety of 28 states

State Total Activities Authorized, 1988-1996 Estimated Acreage Affected, 1988-1996 Estimated Acreage Affected, 1997-2001
       
Arizona 1,249 1,466 2,770
Arkansas 1,954 1,205 2,000
California 5,042 4,334 4,470
Colorado 4,056 1,986 1,915
Delaware 562 290 195
Florida 10,607 7,843 7,125
Georgia 3,669 4,049 3,760
Idaho 2,526 982 915
Indiana 3,603 2,312 1,955
Kansas 3,061 2,317 3,475
Maryland 4,977 2,917 2,010
Michigan 846 423 385
Minnesota 11,247 6,619 3,655
Montana 3,034 1,463 1,365
Nebraska 6,062 1,889 1,335
Nevada 396 314 550
New Jersey 1,875 1,288 250
New Mexico 1,404 983 1,125
North Carolina 7,820 3,913 6,105
North Dakota 4,848 1,171 1,110
Oklahoma 2,662 1,351 1,570
Oregon 2,133 1,164 655
South Dakota 3,807 2,583 1,565
Texas 3,979 3,679 4,695
Utah 512 344 515
Washington 2,602 1,361 1,350
Wisconsin 16,827 10,559 6,330
Wyoming 3,113 1,110 1,115

Source: Environmental Working Group. Compiled from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Data.

Endnotes

1. This is the second time EWG has received data from the Corps' RAMS database. EWG obtained a significantly smaller data set in November, 1994, also as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request. The previous database was used by EWG for published analyses of Section 404 permitting in California, Nebraska and a number of other states.

2. See the "Preliminary Decision Documents" for the proposed nationwide permits, which constitute the environmental assessments, 401(b)(1) compliance reviews, and statements of findings for the proposed permits. Copies of these documents are available at the World Wide Web site of the Sacramento District of the Army Corps of Engineers: http://wetland.usace.mil.

3. Personal Communication, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers staff, Memphis District.

4. See, e.g., "Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and Wetlands, Special Statistical Report," June 1995, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Regulatory Branch, p. 5.

Acknowledgments

We would like to thank Michael Davis, Jack Chowning, and Chris Mayo with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Dennis Rosenblum, Brian Wohletz and Ray Tripamer with Applied Systems Consulting, Inc. for their assistance in obtaining and interpreting the data analyzed in this report.

This report was made possible by grants from The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, The Moriah Fund and The Apple Computer Corporation.

Environmental Working Group is solely responsible for this report and its content.

Copyright (c) August 1996 by the Environmental Working Group/The Tides Center. All rights reserved. Manufactured in the United States of America.

Environmental Working Group

The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit environmental research organization based in Washington, D.C. The Environmental Working Group is a project of the Tides Center, a California Public Benefit Corporation based in San Francisco that provides administrative and program support services to nonprofit programs and projects.

Kenneth A. Cook, President

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