Thursday, October 19, 2006

Hurricanes and Wetlands

There is an article on MSNBC regarding the lifting of restrictions on construction and the filling in of wetlands on the Gulf Coast. The idea is that by reducing the need for reporting and permits reconstruction will move ahead faster and the local economy will speed ahead...

"The Corps’ proposal would allow property owners and developers to skirt the conventional "regional general permit" process for any projects that fill up to 5 acres of “low-quality” wetlands in the six southernmost Mississippi counties."

The point being that 5 acres is not that much of a plot size. However, as pointed out in the article you take ten of those sites and you have impacted 50 acres already.

Now, in all fairness there is a problem in that they seriously understaffed and approving permits can take 8 months right now. So, something needs to be done to make that process work smoother. But the removal of wetlands along the Gulf Coast is one of the reasons Rita & Katrina had the impact we all witnessed. Wetlands are excellent buffers to take part of the force of these storms.

"The environmentalists’ concern that the new permit rules would eliminate a public notification and comment process when such wetlands are to be filled is well-founded, Steele said. “There would not be any notice for these general permits," he said. “There’s no notification process.”

The problem is that once this kind of legislation is passed, even if it is passed with the best of intentions (being optimistic here...), once it has served its purpose it is usually not withdrawn. It stays. I don't think that the absence of a notification process is a good step at all. As put in the report:

“Did you ever meet a developer that thought something was high-quality wetlands?”



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