- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 15, 2002

The Bush administration is rolling back wetland regulations proposed during the Clinton era to simplify requirements, though officials say the rules will provide the same or greater environmental protections.
The changes are “small but important,” said John Studt, chief of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regulatory branch.
The most significant is a redefining of the “no net loss” standard, a one-for-one replacement of wetland acreage. Rather than require the one-for-one standard for individual projects, the replacement goal must be met or exceeded in the entire program, Mr. Studt said.
Last year, the Corps allowed 25,000 acres of wetlands to be filled, yet required the creation or restoration of 43,000 wetland acres to compensate for the loss.
The change allows districts to make more flexible decisions to issue timely permits while ensuring environmental standards are met, Mr. Studt said.
“The revised permits will do a better job of protecting aquatic ecosystems while simplifying some administration burdens for the regulated public,” Mr. Studt said.
“The changes also reinforce and clarify the Corps’ commitment to the no net loss of wetlands goal,” Mr. Studt said.
Julie Sibbing, a wetlands specialist for the National Wildlife Federation, told the Associated Press she is concerned the revised rules will allow wetland areas to be paved over.
“These permits certainly signal the end of ‘no net loss’ as a policy of the United States,” Miss Sibbing said.
Another new rule waives a proposed prohibition of projects that would have an effect within 300 feet of so-called “intermittent” streams, but keeps such protections on so-called “perennial” streams.
Intermittent streams can be 2 inches wide and 1 inch deep, typically rain runoff, said Becki Dobyns, a spokeswoman for the Corps.
“By and large, it is not significantly a high-value aquatic resource,” Miss Dobyns said.
A caveat was added to mining-related permit rules allowing for further restrictions depending upon the outcome of an ongoing environmental study of mountaintop-removal projects.
Additionally, mining permits will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis and full mitigation is required to offset any environmental damage.
The new rules relate to nationwide permits that now will be granted for minimal-impact projects involving a half-acre or less. The permits were previously issued for three acres.
The reduction in acreage is prompting developers to design minimal-impact projects so they can apply for the national permit rather than go through the longer process of an individual permit, Miss Dobyns said.
The new rules take effect March 16.

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