While the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reissued Clean Water Act streamlined nationwide wetland permits (NWPs) as a final rule on Jan. 6, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus on Jan. 20 issued a memo directing federal agencies to withdraw or postpone recently finalized regulations for at least 60 days.
If the NWPs were to get caught up in the web of this regulatory freeze, builders and developers face the potential burden of costly and time-consuming “individual” wetland permits for even the smallest of impacts to wetlands, ponds and streams.
NWPs authorize a wide variety of activities in wetlands and other areas near what the federal government has determined to be “waters of the United States,” including residential developments, utility lines and road crossings.
Activities that do not qualify for authorization under an NWP must seek an individual permit, granted by the Corps on a case-by-case basis through a rigorous review process, including public notice and additional permit conditions.
Builders and developers rely on NWPs for a much faster and cheaper authorization process: For example, a 2002 study found that it takes an average of 313 days and $28,915 to obtain an NWP, while the average time and cost to secure an individual permit were 788 days and $271,596.
NAHB is concerned that the regulatory review procedures outlined in the Priebus Memo will delay the effective date of the NWPs, resulting in their expiration and a lapse in NWP availability. If the NWPs lapse, the Corps would need to authorize requests for federal wetland permits under the more expensive and time consuming individual permit basis.
To avoid a lapse in NWP availability, NAHB asked the White House Office of Management and Budget to either exclude the NWPs from regulatory review or, at a minimum, fast-track the NWP review process to avoid the undesirable outcomes described above and to preserve the intent of Congress for the provision of streamlined permitting for activities with minimal adverse environmental effects.
For additional information, contact Owen McDonough at 800-368 5242 x8662.