Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Renewable Energy Along Rivers? Tell the USACE What You Think

As all of us who work in river restoration know, we cannot complete our projects without obtaining a plethora of permits from various governmental agencies. On average, a typical project will require between 10 and 18 permits.

One of the most important permits is the ubiquitous US Army Corps of Engineers Section 404 of the Clean Water Act permit and, in some cases, the Section 10 Rivers and Harbor Act of 1899 permit.

According to the USACE press release of February 16, 2011 (which I've just read thanks to fellow blogger Trouthead at Club EcoBlue Blog), the Corps is seeking comments on its proposal to renew and revise nationwide permits for work in wetlands and other waters. In addition, AND THIS IS THE BIGGIE,  USACE is proposing to issue two new nationwide permits that pertain to authorizing renewable energy generation projects.

These nationwide Section 404 and Section 10 permits authorize activities that are similar in nature and cause only minimal adverse environmental impacts to aquatic resources separately or on a cumulative basis. Activities range from work associated with aids to navigation and utility lines to residential developments and maintenance activities. Many of the nationwide permits being proposed remain unchanged from 2007, according to the USACE press release, the last time the nationwide permits were authorized.
USACE division engineers may add, after public review and consultation, regional conditions to nationwide permits in order to protect local aquatic ecosystems such as fens or bottomland hardwoods or to minimize adverse effects on fish or shellfish spawning, wildlife nesting or other ecologically critical areas.

A public notice to solicit comments on the proposed set of revised nationwide permits was published in the February 16, 2011 Federal Register at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-02-16/pdf/2011-3371.pdf. USACE will accept written comments for a 60-day period that ends on April 18, 2011. Comments may be submitted by e-mail to NWP2012@usace.army.mil or through the Federal eRulemaking portal at www.regulations.gov at docket number COE-2010-0035. The current set of nationwide permits expires March 18, 2012. The nationwide permits being proposed will replace the existing set.

Additional information about the Corps’ regulatory program can be found at http://www.usace.army.mil/CECW/Pages/cecwo_reg.aspx.

April 18th is a hard deadline for comments, so don't delay in adding your voice.

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