NBN Online for the week of January 21, 2008

(Plain Text Version) for full graphical version, click here.

In This Issue:

Front Page
NAHB, Administration in Sync on Housing Legislation Need
Builders: Today’s Rate Cut Is Tomorrow’s Sale
Avoid the Lines, Register Online for IBS by Friday, Jan. 25
NAHB Branding Online Survey Coming Soon
Coast to Coast
Falling Timbers: Good News for Builders, Buyers as Lumber Prices Hit Two-Year Low
Building Products
Lutron System Remotely Controls Home Lighting
Lubrizol Offers Versatile Water Distribution Manifold System
Sage Software Improves Visibility of Critical Business Data
Dow Structural Insulated Sheathing Faster to Install
Bose Entertainment System Integrates Seamlessly Into Home
Lennox Products Keep Indoor Air Clean and Comfortable
PERC Booth Shows Advantages of Propane Lifestyle
HGTVPro.com Interviews the Experts, Holds Panel on Color
Politics & Government
Green Mandate an Obstacle to HOPE VI Support
States Taking the Lead to Limit Home Foreclosures
Permit Process Remains Top Industry Concern Even in Downturn
Illegal Worker Crackdown a Threat to Businesses, Report Finds
Economics & Finance
Builders Cut Housing Starts Further in December
Builder Confidence Virtually Unchanged in January
NAHB Members Urged to Complete Economic Data Census Form
Useful Links to Monitor Economic and Housing Trends
Get Top-Level Survival Tips at ‘Executive Edge’ at IBS
Builders' Tip: Reduce Cleanup With This Paintbrush Garage
Business Management
Computer Labs at IBS Showcase Builder Technology
50Plus Housing
Madison’s Troy Gardens Builds a Sense of Community
Learn About Multifamily Forecast, Marketing at IBS
NAHB Averts End to Census Bureau Remodeling Data
Things You Can Do If the Slowdown Slowed You Down
Do You Know a Remodeler Who Deserves Recognition?
Building Systems
Quality, Not Speed, Important to Modular Home Buyers
Courses Provide Training on Proper Roof Installation
Light Commercial Offers Challenges, Opportunities
Education Calendar
Green Building
Green Building Standard Comments Due Feb. 4
Green Building Award Entries Deadline Soon
Best in American Living Awards Fete Set for Feb. 12
Rapanos Guidance Fails to End Wetlands Permit Confusion
Construction Safety
Safety Award Finalists Named, Ceremony Tickets Available
Industry Leaders to Recognize Job Corps Graduates
HGTV Giving Away $2 Million Dream Home in Florida Keys
NAHB-Produced Programs on DIY, Fine Living and HGTV
Charitable Contributions to Be Honored at Builders’ Show
Association News
Bob Moomey, Spokesperson Trainer for NAHB, Dies at 71
NAHB Board Meeting Set for Feb. 15 in Orlando
Introducing the Hertz Green Collection. Reserve and Conserve.
Dell to Give Double Discounts in February
UPS Offers Up to 30% Discount to NAHB Members on Shipping
Calendar of Events
NAHB Career Center

Rapanos Guidance Fails to End Wetlands Permit Confusion

A year and a half after the U.S. Supreme Court issued a split decision on wetlands development and federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act, builders, developers and regulators continue to be mired in confusing rules, delays and uncertainty.

NAHB recently provided comments on the so-called Rapanos Guidance from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, urging the regulators to issue a formal rulemaking.

A number of state and local home builders associations as well as individual builders also submitted comments. The deadline for submission was Jan. 21.

Intended as clarification for both builders and regulators, the guidance was supposed to specify who has authority to regulate various land development activities pertaining to “navigable waters of the United States,” where the Clean Water Act applies.

But the guidance, issued last June — a full year after the court decision — has not helped much, resulting in an ever-growing, time- and money-consuming backlog of permitting decisions in Corps offices that NAHB says poses a growing threat to housing affordability.

It also remains unclear what test or proof should be used to demonstrate that properties subject to permitting contain the “significant nexus” to wetlands and navigable waters that make them subject to federal jurisdiction in the first place.

“Longer delays and the uncertainty associated with delays increase the costs related to construction, increase the interest that must be paid on loans related to the construction, make scheduling and planning extremely difficult and postpone the date that the home can be sold to realize a return on our investment,” the NAHB comments said.

For example, Corps’ records show that in 2003 it took an average of 180 days to get a permit under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, which governs development on wetlands where the federal government has jurisdiction. Today, some Corps district offices are reporting that it can take as long as 12 months for a response to a permit application.

The applications themselves are also confusing, with sections that need to be completed even if they are not applicable to the site, undefined terms and vague data requests.

Particularly vague is the test for a significant nexus, and in its comments NAHB suggested how to fix the problem.

The federal agencies should “focus not only on the frequency, volume and duration of water flow, but also on evidence of downstream effects as the primary factor in determining significant nexus.

“Consideration of drainage area, base flow index and minimum annual flow could also help to direct decision-making, but these factors must be quantified so that the end result is an objective score, not a subjective opinion,” the comments said.

NAHB submitted the following recommendations:

  • The agencies must complete a rulemaking that clearly delineates the limits of federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act’s Section 404 permitting program, as articulated by the U.S. Supreme Court.

  • The agencies must limit jurisdiction to those areas that meet the “traditionally interstate navigable waters,” “relatively permanent water,” “continuous surface connection” or significant nexus tests.

  • The agencies must revise and reissue the Rapanos guidance, incorporating all reasonable suggestions made during the comment period that simplify the jurisdictional determination forms; streamline the process; help document permitting decisions; and make the process more consistent, transparent and less burdensome.

  • The agencies must at the same time make the “significant nexus” determination easier to implement, quantifiable, based on science, transparent and consistent across the nation.

  • The agencies must provide a mechanism by which applicants may voluntarily allow jurisdiction in lieu of completing the jurisdictional determination form.

  • The agencies must also clarify the definition of “traditional navigable waters,” according to the Supreme Court’s view that they are either actually navigable or that they are “a continued highway over which commerce is or may be carried on with other states or foreign countries.”

For more information, e-mail Calli Schmidt at NAHB, or call her at 800-368-5242 x8132.

Are You Ready for a Visit From the EPA? 

“Storm Water Permitting: A Guide for Builders and Developers,” available through BuilderBooks.com, provides a starting point for builders and developers to use in locating and understanding storm water permitting requirements.

The publication has been prepared to help builders comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's storm water requirements, and includes information on state permitting programs and more than 50 of the most commonly used Best Management Practices.

Also included are tips on compliance, including how to handle visits from inspectors.

To view or purchase this guide online, click here, or call 800-223-2665.


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