USACE Regulatory Program works to regulate the waters of the United States by discouraging activities that have not been properly authorized and by requiring corrective measures, where appropriate, to ensure those waters are not misused and to maintain the integrity of the program (33 CFR 326.2). USACE has enforcement implementing regulations at 33 CFR part 326, which describe the procedures in place to implement this policy, while making the most effective use of the enforcement resources available.
Regulations are clear that the decision to initiate an enforcement action resulting from the unauthorized discharges of dredged or fill material into waters of the U.S. and/or non-compliance with USACE-issued permits in a given case is discretionary (33 CFR 326.1). As has always been the case, USACE exercises such discretion by taking into consideration the severity of the alleged violation and any attendant factors including whether there are emergency circumstances, whether the alleged violator has prior knowledge of the Clean Water Act requirements, whether the violation is willful or flagrant, etc. USACE regulations at 33 CFR 326.5(a) provide representative characteristics of violations that would generally make it appropriate for USACE to pursue criminal or civil action (e.g., “willful, repeated, flagrant, or of substantial impact”). Violations stemming from good faith efforts to comply with applicable statutory and regulatory requirements would be among the facts considered by USACE when exercising its discretion on a case-by-case basis. If USACE determines the existence of a potential violation and that additional action is required, it will normally seek to work with the alleged violator to resolve the alleged violation in the most appropriate manner, which often results in voluntary restoration or an after-the-fact authorization of the activities rather than the exercise of enforcement authority.