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USACOE suspending the existing general permits

Swamp Stomp

Volume 13, Issue 35

I bet that got your attention. I guess I should note that this is limited to the New England district. That is still a pretty big area and a very large population affected.

The following is a press release from the Corps. The important date is this Wednesday, as in tomorrow. Comments are due then.

Nationwide B

CONCORD, Mass. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District has proposed suspending the existing general permits in each of the six New England states and issuing the New England General Permit (NE GP) to authorize certain activities that require Department of Army permits under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, and Section 103 of the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act.

The Corps has extended the public comment period to Aug. 28, 2013. Here is a link to the proposal: http://www.nae.usace.army.mil/Portals/74/docs/regulatory/StateGeneralPermits/NEGP/NEGP-PN.pdf. The original notice was issued on June 13, 2013 with a 45-day comment period. The comment extension is to allow inviduals and groups more time to submit their comments.

The NE GP would authorize activities in waters of the U.S. within the boundaries of and/or off the coasts of the six New England states (Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine), including activities occurring within the boundaries of Indian tribal lands that have no more than minimal adverse effects on the aquatic environment.

When GPs were first used in New England in the 1990s, they provided the Corps with significant efficiency, allowing a more streamlined review of minor projects under Section 10 and Section 404. At that time, it made sense to have a separate GP in each state as there were vast differences in state programs and priorities. Over time, however, both the Corps Regulatory program and state wetland programs have evolved. It now makes sense to develop a regional general permit that will continue to maintain a high level of environmental protection while allowing the Corps to streamline processes in New England, reduce regulatory redundancy, ensure consistent compliance with national policy, and alleviate a significant administrative burden for its staff, which currently must reissue each of the six state GPs every five years.

This also would facilitate permit review by partner tribal nations and agencies, be more user-friendly for the regulated public, especially those working in multiple states, and encourage consistency in wetlands and waterway regulation in New England while allowing for flexibility in establishing special conditions, thresholds, and processes that are important to individual states.

The proposed NE GP will not result in significant substantive changes to how activities in waters of the U.S. are regulated in the New England states. The NE GP organizes eligible work into activity-specific categories. This is intended to satisfy the requirements of Section 404(e) of the Clean Water Act, which allows the Corps to issue general permits for activities that are similar in nature and will cause only minimal individual and cumulative adverse environmental effects. Identifying specific activities will allow the Corps to adequately assess cumulative impacts of permitted activities, as well as fully assess impacts on threatened and endangered species.

General Permits are encouraged under the Clean Water Act as a way to streamline state and Federal regulatory programs. The District has had success with streamlining these programs with the use of GPs in New England (in Connecticut since 1990, in Maine since 1983, in Massachusetts since 1993, in New Hampshire since 1992, in Rhode Island since 1997, and in Vermont since 1997).

The public notice with the proposed New England General Permit (NAE 2013-00714) can be reviewed at

http://www.nae.usace.army.mil/Portals/74/docs/regulatory/StateGeneralPermits/NEGP/NEGP-PN.pdf.

Public comments on this proposal should be submitted in writing by Aug. 28, 2013 to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District, Regulatory Division (ATTN: Greg Penta), 696 Virginia Road, Concord, MA 01742-2751. Additional information is available from Greg Penta at 978-318-8862 or toll free 800-343-4789 or 800-362-4367 (if calling in Massachusetts) or by email to gregory.r.penta@usace.army.mil. Those who are interested in attending a question and answer session on this topic should contact Greg Penta.

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