Environmental Groups Challenge NWP 13

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6 years 6 months ago #64 by Bill Sapp
Environmental Groups Challenge NWP 13 was created by Bill Sapp
On behalf of the National Wildlife Federation, the Savannah Riverkeeper, and the Ogeechee Riverkeeper, the Southern Environmental Law Center filed a challenge on October 10th against the Army Corps of Engineers for issuing the 2012 version of Nationwide Permit 13. The outcome of this case could have big ramifications for our living shoreline work because the majority of bulkheads and other hard armoring projects are permitted under the streamlined NWP 13, whereas, most living shorelines have to be permitted under individual permits. Under this Forum, Nate Hunt, SELC's lead attorney for this challenge is going to be providing updates on the case as it moves forward.The initial press release follows:Press Release from the Southern Environmental Law CenterFor Release: October 13, 2014Contacts:Nate Hunt, SELC, 404-521-9900 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Goldman-Carter, National Wildlife Federation, 202-797-6894Emily Markesteyn, Ogeechee Riverkeeper, 866-942-6222Tonya Bonitatibus, Savannah Riverkeeper, 706-826-8991 Conservation Groups Challenge Unlawful Permit to Prevent Further Shoreline Damage  Washington, DC—Conservation groups have filed suit in federal court challenging the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers’ use of a permit that allows construction of bulkheads, seawalls, and other hardened structures to be built in waters of the United States without adequately assessing their environmental impact.Nationwide Permit 13 authorizes the construction of bank stabilization structures along shorelines with little environmental review and without public notice and review. Unlike individual permits issued by the Corps, Nationwide Permit 13 allows structures to be built close to two football fields in length without requiring prior approval from the Corps. Nationwide Permit 13 is currently being used by the Corps to authorize approximately 17,500 structures between 2012 and 2017.“Although these projects are designed to reduce erosion at specific sites, there is a lot of science showing that bulkheads and other structures accelerate erosion in our waters and destroy important shoreline habitat,” said Nate Hunt, attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center. “The negative effects are especially acute on our coasts as more cities, developers, and landowners are constructing bulkheads and sea walls to armor the shoreline in response to sea level rise.”On behalf of the National Wildlife Federation, Ogeechee Riverkeeper, and Savannah Riverkeeper, the Southern Environmental Law Center has filed a lawsuit against the Corps in United States District Court in Washington, D.C, charging that the agency has violated federal law in failing to demonstrate that the projects authorized over the five-year period of the permit will only have minimal environmental effects as required by the Clean Water Act.“The Corps’ use of Nationwide Permit 13 to rubber stamp the coastal armoring of our shorelines threatens important fish and wildlife habitat, including the nesting habitat of threatened and endangered sea turtles and shorebirds,” said Jan Goldman-Carter, senior manager and counsel with the National Wildlife Federation. “By requiring the Corps to carefully review the cumulative impacts of hardening shorelines and alternatives to these hard structures, we aim to encourage the use of living shorelines and other more natural approaches to decreasing erosion on our coastlines.”As sea level rises, more coastlines are being armored by bank stabilization projects. Coastlines fixed by hard structures prohibit wetlands, marshlands, various aquatic ecosystems, and beaches from migrating inland in response to sea level rise.Rather than inhibiting erosion, these structures redirect the wave energy downward and cause the ground at the base of the structures to wear away. As the area in front of the structures disappears, important habitat is lost to species that depend on this land and water interface to survive.“The cumulative effect of hardened structures on our coast is causing irreversible damage to the natural ecosystem, its processes and functions, such as fish nursery habitat and pollution control, and the recreational use of waterways,” said Ogeechee Riverkeeper Emily Markesteyn. “While we are not against any and all bank stabilization projects, we must ensure the Corps follows due diligence when assessing environmental impacts of these structures.”Federal and state agencies, the conservation groups, and others filed extensive comments on the proposed permit, highlighting the scientific evidence on the significant environmental impact of shoreline armoring. The groups contend that the Corps failed to justify the use of Nationwide Permit 13 in the face of this scientific evidence.“Our coastal regions are changing due to sea level rise, and development choices we make today can either help buffer us from the impacts, or worsen the impacts on ourselves and our neighbors,” said Savannah Riverkeeper Tonya Bonitatibus. “The Corps must be diligent in ensuring the solutions it permits do not cause or allow undue harm on surrounding coastal properties.” Thanks for circulating the press release Bill! A successful outcome in this case could greatly encourage and facilitate the use of living shorelines. The Army Corps of Engineers has 60 days to answer our complaint. I will keep you posted on any happenings in the case. Below are few articles on the lawsuit:http://www.dredgingtoday.com/2014/10/14/use-of-nationwide-permit-13...http://www.courthousenews.com/2014/10/13/72390.htmhttp://www.law360.com/environmental/articles/586546/enviros-say-arm...

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