News | June 9, 2009

SELC Urges Corps Not to Sacrifice Water Quality in Rush to Stimulate Economy

The Savannah District of the Army Corps of Engineers has proposed a permitting program that would fast-track approval to dredge and fill streams and wetlands for projects funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act―the economic stimulus legislation passed by Congress earlier this year. SELC is urging the Corps to drop this proposal, which is also opposed by the regional office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. We are calling for the Corps to open a dialogue on ways to put people to work quickly without undermining environmental safeguards.

The permits would revise the standard for what is considered “minimal impact” on waters and wetlands, allowing up to 1,000 linear feet of streams and up to five acres of wetlands to be dredged or filled under this looser standard for stimulus projects. In some instances, the permit would go even farther and allow the destruction of up to 10 acres of wetlands and 2,000 feet of streams under the “minimal impact” standard. For the most part, the current standard is a half-acre of wetlands and up to 300 feet of streams.

SELC acknowledges the need to spur employment and economic recovery, but not at the cost of protections provided by the Clean Water Act and other environmental laws. While urging the Corps to rethink this proposal, we are also calling for the agency to adhere to green practices outlined by the EPA for federally funded construction projects.