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sample Op-ed piece on Nationwide Permit 26



The Clean Water Network has drafted a sample op-ed piece on Nationwide
Permit 26 below for you to use.  As you may know, we have been working
hard to get rid of this permit for almost two years.  Now the Corps is
proposing 16 new permits to cover activities that previously were
covered under the old Nationwide Permit 26.  CWN's wetlands work group
saw a draft this month, and the proposed replacement permits were
terrible - they would permit more wetlands destruction, not less!  The
Corps is working on a second draft, so now is a good time to get our
message out that we want more protection, not less for wetlands.

The Washington Post wrote about this issue on January 31, 1998.  You can
find it on the web, or we can fax a copy to you.

Below is an op-ed or opinion piece that you can put your name on and
submit to your local paper.  Feel free to add some local information or
to edit as you wish. The idea is to start getting this issue in more
papers and making it as easy as possible for you to get coverage on this
issue.

If you have any questions about the replacement permits, send us an
email at cleanwaternt@igc.apc.org and we'll answer your questions, or
forward them to our wetlands experts.  If you are successful in getting
your local paper to run this op-ed, please send a copy to us at: Clean
Water Network, 1200 New York Ave, NW  Suite 400, Washington, DC  20005.

Thanks and good luck!

Sample Op-ed:

DON’T DESTROY OUR WETLANDS

Citizen groups and individuals all across the country are working daily
to fight developers, county or zoning committees, and the federal
government to protect our remaining natural wetlands.  Unfortunately,
while citizens are working to save wetlands from destruction, the
Clinton Administration seems to be of two minds on how to care for these
important resources.  

On the one hand, the Clinton Clean Water Action Plan, the details of
which will be released later this month, specifically calls for a net
gain of 100,000 acres of wetlands per year by 2005.  (Currently, 117,000
acres are destroyed annually.)  On the other hand, the U.S. Army Corps
of Engineers has drafted a new proposal that will open up thousands more
acres of sensitive lands for development.  The obvious conflict between
these two proposals raises a question: is the Clinton Administration
trying to save wetlands from destruction or not?

Wetlands are some of America's most valuable natural resources.  We know
that wetlands are crucial to our ability to maintain clean water for
drinking, fishing and swimming.  Wetlands naturally filter water before
it goes into our streams, rivers, bays and other waterways.  They help
prevent flooding and offer unique natural habitat for many kinds of
wildlife including birds and fish.  In fact, 75 percent of the nation’s
fish production – worth $143 billion to our economy – depends on marshes
and other wetland environments.

For a developer to fill a wetland, the Clean Water Act requires that he
or she obtain a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  The U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers uses nationwide or "quick" permits to approve of
classes of activity that will automatically be allowed without going
through a lengthy investigation or public notice.  While some of these
nationwide permits are reasonable, several of them result in large
losses of our remaining wetlands.

Currently, the Corps is working on coming up with 16 new "quick" permits
to replace Nationwide Permit 26 (NWP 26), a particularly harmful permit
that the Corps decided (in response to citizen pressure) to phase out
over two years because it was so destructive to the environment.  Prior
to 1997, Nationwide Permit 26 exempted from review all activity in
isolated headwater wetlands under one acre and granted a general permit,
after cursory review of the project but without public notice, for
activity in wetlands up to ten acres.  Not only did this nationwide
permit result in the loss of valuable wetlands as a result of its
definition, wetlands were also lost because the review system did not
work.  The U.S. Corps of Engineers really operates as a "rubber stamp"
when using nationwide permits – development projects are rarely denied
coverage under nationwide permits.  Unfortunately, the new draft
proposed permits do not in any way remedy the situation.

The environmental community supported the development of new nationwide
permits that contain activity-appropriate conditions designed to protect
the environment.  However, the 16 proposed permits would continue to
authorize virtually every activity allowed under the old permit.  For
example, one permit authorizes the destruction of up to three acres at a
time to build or expand any kind of commercial development on any
wetland located anywhere.  Imagine a small strip mall being built on a
wetland in your neighborhood.  With this proposed permit, the developer
would not have to notify the public and could destroy the wetland,
possibly resulting in flooding in your neighborhood or increased
polluted runoff affecting the cleanliness of your drinking water.  

If these permits are adopted as written, we will continue to lose
valuable natural wetlands by chunks of three acres, six acres and
perhaps even fifteen acres at a time - – depending on the activity. 

While politicians argue about how to balance economic growth with
environmental protection, everyone needs to understand that the
destruction of wetlands harms the communities where they exist.  We
should be working together at every level of government to ensure that
we protect our remaining natural wetlands.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers needs to get on board with the rest of
the Clinton Administration and change the permits replacing the NWP 26
with ones which will help meet the President’s goal of protecting
wetlands.  In the meantime, citizens need to continue to work to protect
individual wetland areas in their communities and let their public
officials know that wetlands are a valuable asset that need to be
protected for the good of the entire community.

END
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