Corps Sheds Light on Plant List

In response to NAHB members’ repeated requests, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers published the National Wetland Plant List in the Federal Register on Sept. 14 for notice and comment.

The Plant List is a Corps document that guides professionals who assist developers and builders in identifying wetlands at potential building sites. Importantly, where there are wetlands, there are often federal, state, or local regulations and permits.

Since 2012, NAHB members have been concerned with revisions to the list, which includes trees, flowers and grasses that aren’t necessarily confined to wetlands and can result in confusing or erroneous jurisdictional determinations.

Flowering dogwood leaves on branch

Flowering dogwood leaves on branch

Unfortunately, the Corps had failed to comply with regulatory rulemaking requirements as it updates the list. As a result, the list lacks transparency and predictability.

In a continued effort to encourage the Corps to correct these problems, NAHB Environmental Issues Committee and Legal Action Committee members and staff met with Corps regulators in Washington, D.C., during the Spring Board of Directors meeting to voice our concerns. And the Corps appears to have listened.

The public will have until Nov. 13 to comment and vote on proposed 2015 Plant List updates of wetland indicator statuses for specific plants. The Federal Register notice also outlines a process for future updates to the Plant List.

Great Coneflower

Great Coneflower

This is a win for NAHB as we seek a transparent, predictable process for builders and their consultants to rely on as they conduct wetland delineations. NAHB will participate by submitting comments, addressing the Plant List’s remaining deficiencies including a lack of scientific data to support the listing of over 2,700 plants and concerns about the composition and credentials of the list’s national and regional voting panels.

And we encourage members to do the same – and also spread the word to the wetlands professionals you work with. It’s important for them to submit comments and for all of us to work together to help the Corps create a more usable, sensible guide.

For more information, contact Amy Chai or Owen McDonough.

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