3 September 2021 – Current Implementation of Waters of the United States
The Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (the agencies) are in receipt of the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona’s August 30, 2021, order vacating and remanding the Navigable Waters Protection Rule in the case of Pascua Yaqui Tribe v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In light of this order, the agencies have halted implementation of the Navigable Waters Protection Rule and are interpreting “waters of the United States” consistent with the pre-2015 regulatory regime until further notice. The agencies continue to review the order and consider next steps. This includes working expeditiously to move forward with the rulemakings announced on June 9, 2021, in order to better protect our nation’s vital water resources that support public health, environmental protection, agricultural activity, and economic growth. The agencies remain committed to crafting a durable definition of “waters of the United States” that is informed by diverse perspectives and based on an inclusive foundation. Additional information is available on EPA’s website at: https://www.epa.gov/wotus/current-implementation-waters-united-states.
30 July 2021 – EPA and Army Announce Next Steps for Crafting Enduring Definition of Waters of the United States
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of the Army (Army) have announced plans for upcoming community engagements to inform their efforts to revise the definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS). EPA and Army have stated a commitment to developing a reasonable, effective, and durable definition of WOTUS that protects public health, the environment, and downstream communities while supporting economic opportunity, agriculture, and other industries.
EPA and Army are announcing a series of engagement opportunities, including an opportunity for stakeholders and the public to provide written recommendations and a series of public meetings in August to hear perspectives on the rulemaking. In addition, the agencies are initiating Federalism and Tribal consultations for the foundational rule. The agencies also intend to host a series of dialogues with state and Tribal co-regulators this fall to discuss both rulemakings.
The full announcement can be found here: https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-and-army-announce-next-steps-crafting-enduring-definition-waters-united-states.
For more information on submitting written recommendations or to register for the public meetings, see www.epa.gov/wotus.
9 June 2021 - EPA, Army Announce Intent to Revise Definition of Waters of the United States
The Environmental Protection Agency and Department of the Army have announced their intent to revise the definition of “waters of the United States” to better protect our nation’s vital water resources that support public health, environmental protection, agricultural activity, and economic growth.
“After reviewing the Navigable Waters Protection Rule as directed by President Biden, the EPA and Department of the Army have determined that this rule is leading to significant, permanent environmental degradation,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “We are committed to establishing a durable definition of ‘waters of the United States’ based on Supreme Court precedent and drawing from the lessons learned from the current and previous regulations, as well as input from a wide array of stakeholders, so we can better protect our nation’s waters, foster economic growth, and support thriving communities.”
“Together, the Department of the Army and EPA will develop a rule that is informed by our technical expertise, is straightforward to implement by our agencies and our state and Tribal co-regulators, and is shaped by the lived experience of local communities” said Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jaime A. Pinkham.
The agencies’ new regulatory effort will be guided by the following considerations:
- Protecting water resources and our communities consistent with the Clean Water Act.
- The latest science and the effects of climate change on our waters.
- Emphasizing a rule with a practical implementation approach for state and Tribal partners.
- Reflecting the experience of and input received from landowners, the agricultural community that fuels and feeds the world, states, Tribes, local governments, community organizations, environmental groups, and disadvantaged communities with environmental justice concerns.
The agencies are committed to meaningful stakeholder engagement to ensure that a revised definition of waters of the United States considers essential clean water protections, as well as how the use of water supports key economic sectors. Further details of the agencies’ plans, including opportunity for public participation, will be conveyed in a forthcoming action. To learn more about the definition of waters of the United States, visit https://www.epa.gov/wotus.
26 April 2021 - Navigable Waters Protection Rule now effective in all 50 states and in all U.S. territories
The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Army’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR): Definition of “Waters of the United States” became effective in the state of Colorado on April 26, 2021, and the NWPR is now effective all 50 states and all US territories. The NWPR establishes the scope of federal regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act. The NWPR includes four simple categories of jurisdictional waters and provides specific exclusions for many water features that traditionally have not been regulated. The Federal Register notice is available at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/04/21/2020-02500/the-navigable-waters-protection-rule-definition-of-waters-of-the-united-states. Additional information about the rule can be found on the EPA’s website at https://www.epa.gov/nwpr.
24 March 2021 - Public comment period on National Wetland Plant List for 2020
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) as part of an interagency effort is accepting comments on draft changes to the 2020 National Wetland Plant List (NWPL). The 27 species and their draft 2020 wetland ratings by region, as well as the Federal Register Notice, can be viewed at the NWPL homepage, http://wetland-plants.usace.army.mil/, under “2020 NWPL Update Information.” A link to provide general or species-specific comments is also available at this location. USACE is also seeking comments regarding the administrative change to the South Pacific Islands subregion and the NWPL update process. Comments will be accepted through May 24, 2021. All submitted comments and information will be compiled and sent to the National Panel for their consideration.
- 13 January 2021 – Army Corps of Engineers publishes 2021 nationwide permits
USACE announce today the publication in the Federal Register of the 2021 Nationwide Permits (NWPs) at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/01/13/2021-00102/reissuance-and-modification-of-nationwide-permits. The 12 reissued and four new 2021 NWPs in the rule are necessary for work in streams, wetlands and other waters of the United States under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899. These 16 NWPs will go into effect on March 15, 2021 and will expire on March 14, 2026. The 40 existing NWPs that were not reissued or modified by the January 13, 2021, final rule remain in effect. More information on NWPs can be found at https://www.usace.army.mil/Missions/Civil-Works/Regulatory-Program-and-Permits/National-Notices-and-Program-Initiatives/.
5 January 2021 - Army Corps of Engineers announces new and revised nationwide permits
USACE announced today that it reissued 12 and issued four new nationwide permits for work in wetlands and other waters that are regulated by Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and/or Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899. The final rule is expected to be published in the Federal Register in the coming weeks. The pre-publication version of the final rule is available at https://www.usace.army.mil/Missions/Civil-Works/Regulatory-Program-and-Permits/Nationwide-Permits/.
15 September 2020 - Army Corps of Engineers announces proposal to renew and revise nationwide permits
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced today that it has prepared its proposal to renew and revise 52 nationwide permits for work in wetlands and other waters that are regulated by Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and/or Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899. The proposal was published in the Federal Register today. The public comment period ends on November 16, 2020. The proposed rule is available through the Federal Register web site at: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/09/15/2020-17116/proposal-to-reissue-and-modify-nationwide-permits
14 September 2020 - Effective date of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) rule to update the regulations implementing the procedural provisions of NEPA
On July 16, 2020, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) issued a final rule to update its regulations for Federal agencies to implement the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The final rule became effective on September 14, 2020. Additional information about the final rule and its development is available on the NEPA website at https://ceq.doe.gov/laws-regulations/regulations.html. The Corps of Engineers is in the process of updating its NEPA implementing regulations for the Regulatory Program (33 CFR Part 325, Appendix B) to comport with CEQ’s updated rule. The Corps’ proposed rule is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register for comments during the first quarter of CY2021.
11 September 2020 - EPA finalized the “Clean Water Act Section 401 Certification Rule”
On June 1, 2020, EPA finalized the "Clean Water Act Section 401 Certification Rule" to implement the water quality certification process consistent with the text and structure of the CWA. The final rule became effective on September 11, 2020. See Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2019-0405 for additional information.
The final rule is available through the Federal Register website at: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2020-07/documents/clean_water_act_section_401_certification_rule.pdf
Additional information is available on the EPA’s website at: https://www.epa.gov/cwa-401/statutory-and-regulatory-requirements-cwa-section-401-certification
4 August 2020 - Statement regarding Executive Order 13924
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.
- 22 Jun 2020 - Navigable Waters Protection Rule becomes effective
The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Army’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR): Definition of “Waters of the United States” became effective on June 22, 2020 in 49 states and all US territories. A preliminary injunction has been granted for the state of Colorado. Federal jurisdiction in Colorado will be determined using the 2019 Rule (the recodification of the 1986 Regulations) and associated 2003/2008 (SWANCC/Rapanos) guidance documents. The NWPR establishes the scope of federal regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act. The NWPR includes four simple categories of jurisdictional waters and provides specific exclusions for many water features that traditionally have not been regulated. The Federal Register notice is available at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/04/21/2020-02500/the-navigable-waters-protection-rule-definition-of-waters-of-the-united-states. Additional information about the rule can be found on the EPA’s website at https://www.epa.gov/nwpr.
22 May 2020 - Final 2018 National Wetland Plant List
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as part of an interagency effort with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service, announce the availability of the final 2018 National Wetland Plant List (NWPL) in the Federal Register at https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2020-05-18/pdf/2020-10630.pdf. The 2018 NWPL is effective as of May 18, 2020 and will be used in any wetland delineations performed after this date. Wetland delineation/determination forms should reference this version of the NWPL. The 2018 NWPL is also available at http://wetland-plants.usace.army.mil/. The NWPL provides plant species indicator status ratings, which are used in determining whether the hydrophytic vegetation factor is met when conducting wetland delineations under the Clean Water Act and wetland determinations under the Wetland Conservation Provisions of the Food Security Act.
28 Jan 2020 - NRCS and Army rescind 2005 joint memorandum
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army have provided written notice to rescind the 2005 joint memorandum titled "Guidance on Conduction Wetland Determinations for the Food Security Act of 1985 and Section 404 of the Clean Water Act". This rescission is effective immediately. This rescission does not alter the roles or responsibilities of the Agencies under their respective statutory and regulatory authorities. The Agencies will continue their practice of informing landowners that wetland delineations (performed by the Corps) and determinations (performed by the NRCS) may not be valid for FSA or CWA requirements, respectively. The Agencies intend to issue new guidance on this topic in the near future.