Experts to Discuss How to Identify Significant Wetlands
A distinguished group of engineers and environmentalists with experience in wetlands and in the determination of navigable waters will gather in Washington Nov. 27 to 28 to discuss the implications of the recent Rapanos and Carabell decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The goal of the discussions is to develop a scientifically valid checklist or set of criteria that landowners, developers and regulators can reference when trying to determine whether a wetland or a body of water has a “significant nexus” to jurisidictional, navigable waters of the United States and is thus subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act. The significant nexus test was articulated in Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion, which was issued last June.
Currently, NAHB members are subject to conflicting, inconsistent rules and regulations, despite assurances from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that it would issue guidance to regional offices by the end of July. NAHB Executive Vice President and CEO Jerry Howard sent a letter to the Corps and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency earlier this month protesting the delay.
As of Oct. 30, the guidance had not been received, but the NAHB Wetlands Summit will proceed nevertheless. “While we have all heard reports that joint guidance from EPA and the Corps is imminent, even if it is released prior to our meeting, we do not expect it to bias the outcome,” said David C. Smith, vice chair of NAHB’s Environmental Issues Committee, in a letter to summit participants.
The association’s Legal Action Committee has discussed the Rapanos decisions in detail, but not from the point of view of wetlands and environmental experts. “By design, this meeting will not be a ‘legal’ exercise,” Smith told participants. “Rather, we want to convene the best strategic thought of Clean Water Act Section 404 field consultants to vet Justice Kennedy’s new test.”
For more information, e-mail Calli Schmidt at NAHB, or call her at 800-368-5242 x8132.