According to EPA, the creek was illegally filled with 40,000 cubic yards of material–the equivalent of about 2,000 large dump truck loads.
This creek is the main freshwater source for one of Southern California’s largest coastal wetland systems and home to various endangered species. Not to mention, the creek has been the subject of extensive studies and protection efforts at federal, state, and local levels due to its ecological significance and impaired water quality. As part of the settlement, the contractor will also be spending at least another $500,000 on restoration and mitigation projects. Some of these projects include removing the fill he dumped.
Section 404 of the CWA requires anyone who proposes to fill and alter protected waterways, including wetlands, with dredged or fill material to first obtain permit authorization from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
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What to Expect from the Wetlands Permitting Review Process
When you apply for a permit, you must show that you have, to the extent practicable:
- Taken steps to avoid wetland impacts;
- Minimized potential impacts on wetlands; and
- Provided compensation for any remaining unavoidable impacts.
Proposed activities are regulated through a permit review process.
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An individual permit is required for potentially significant impacts. Individual permits are reviewed by the Corps, which evaluates applications under a public interest review, as well as the environmental criteria set forth in the CWA Section 404(b)(1) Guidelines. The applicant will generally submit a completed 4345 application form to the appropriate Corps district office.
However, for most discharges that will have only minimal adverse effects, a general permit may be suitable.
General permits are issued on a nationwide, regional, or state basis for particular categories of activities. The general permit process eliminates individual review and allows certain activities to proceed with little or no delay, provided that the general or specific conditions for the general permit are met. For example, minor road activities, utility line backfill, and bedding are activities that can be considered for a general permit. States also have a role in Section 404 decisions, through state program general permits, water quality certification, or program assumption.
See tomorrow’s Advisor for a wetlands project planning checklist.