The Trump administration is preparing to limit the definition of federally protected waterways in the Clean Water Act, an action that could expose many wetlands to real estate development.
Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, has completed a proposal to implement President Trump’s executive order limiting the definition of federally protected waterways.
Trump ordered the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to consider limiting protection of non-navigable waterways under the Clean Water Act to those covered year-round by water and connected to a navigable stream, river or lake.
That could remove many wetlands from federal protection and undermine the nation’s mitigation banking system, under which real estate developers legally fill and build on wetlands by purchasing credits from so-called mitigation banks that maintain wetlands.
Data from the Army Corps of Engineers show that, from 2002 to 2015, developers filled about 350 square miles of wetlands and purchased mitigation credits covering approximately 800 square miles of wetlands, paying up to $300,000 per credit.
Royal Gardner, a law professor at Stetson University, told the Associated Press that the Trump administration’s new definition of protected waterways “would destroy wetland mitigation at the federal level.”
In a recent speech, Pruitt said the current definition of federally protected waterways is too broad, encompassing “dry creek beds” and “prairie puddles” that would be better regulated by states. [Associated Press] – Mike Seemuth