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Posted 12/3/2018

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By Shaina Souder
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Buffalo District

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Buffalo District Regulators are undertaking a big outreach effort to provide consultants information about the 2015 Clean Water Rule that took effect on August 16, 2018.

Back in August, the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina made a decision that put the 2015 Clean Water Rule (Rule) in effect in 22 states, including New York and Ohio.  Specifically, the court decision and related Rule affect what waters (wetlands, streams, lakes, etc.) are under federal jurisdiction.  The Corps of Engineers is responsible for regulating Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, which requires federal approval (permit authorization) for any discharge of fill material into federal waters.  Originally, the Rule was initiated in late 2015, but was stayed by a court decision a mere two-months after being released.

Due to the regulation change and in an effort to improve understanding within the Buffalo District, Susan Baker, a Buffalo District Regulatory-Mitigation Banking Specialist initially planned and provided training internally for the Buffalo District staff. Baker’s experience with the USACE headquarters team reviewing responses to the Rule’s public notice has contributed to an in-depth role in the District’s outreach efforts.

Now, she and other Buffalo District staff are executing multiple outreach events that will consist of a presentation of the changes to the Corps of Engineers Regulatory processes that the new regulation results in, which will be followed by a question and answer session.

“The goal is to make it simpler to understand for people across the Buffalo District, said Baker. “This will improve permitting processes between the Corps and the public.”

Outreach events were held on November 27th and 28th, occurring at the Buffalo District Regulatory field office in Auburn, New York, and again on November 29th and 30th in the Regulatory field office in Stow, Ohio.   This week an event will be held locally on December 5th and 6th at Woodlawn Beach State Park, Hamburg, New York.

“We recognize the Regulatory Program is complex and it is our responsibility as a public service organization to educate the public especially when there are procedural changes” said Diane Kozlowski, Buffalo District Regulatory Branch Chief.  “Providing outreach events aid in the public’s understanding of the permit requirements which in turn facilitate the review and evaluation of their projects by Regulatory staff.”

The Buffalo District Regulatory Branch has performed several outreach events mainly targeting consultants and wetland delineators since 2017 and the list of attendees for those trainings was used to invite stakeholders for these meetings.  Although, anyone who heard about the outreach event could attend. 

“Outreach is an important tool that we use to help our consultant counterparts, other agencies, and the public to understand what we do and why it is necessary,” said Harold Keppner, Regulatory Monitoring & Enforcement Section Chief.  “Ultimately, it improves our relationship with the public, results in more complete permit applications, and reduces inadvertent violations of federal law.”

The Buffalo District Regulatory Branch recognizes the uncertainty the court decision regarding the Rule has created and continues to seek avenues to perform outreach and to improve public understanding of the regulatory program.

For more information on the Buffalo District Regulatory Program, please visit our website at: https://www.lrb.usace.army.mil/Missions/Regulatory/

Additional information regarding the Clean Water Rule can be found at: https://www.lrb.usace.army.mil/Missions/Regulatory/Wetland-Information/

Buffalo District Corps of Engineers lakes Outreach regulatory streams Tributaries USACE Water of the United States wetlands