- The GAO report says the administration essentially changed the rules after announcing it would not do so by simply ignoring existing law.
- by storing floodwater, wetlands provide a variety of other benefits: they filter pollutants from our drinking water, and provide habitat for fish, shellfish and wildlife.
FlyFish News Service, 2005-10-13
The General Accounting Office (GAO) has released a report finding that the US Army Corps of Engineers guilty of failing to protect wetlands, headwaters and other important waters. The report found that although the Army Corps is required under the Clean Water Act to protect these waters, the agency is permitting their destruction without explaining why it is not following the law, recording the acreage being destroyed or evaluating the natural functions that are lost.
"In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, we know that our nation needs to be increasing - not weakening - protections for waterways that can prevent flooding and provide clean water," said Navis Bermudez, Sierra Club Clean Water Campaign Representative. "The GAO's report confirms that the administration is secretly pursuing a policy that favors developers and other industry interests. The administration's policy needs to be withdrawn and protections extended to the full extent of the law."
In January 2003, the administration proposed rule making to weaken the Clean Water Act's requirements defining "waters of the United States." The administration later abandoned this rule making and promised key constituents that it would not pursue that course of action again. The GAO report says the administration essentially changed the rules after announcing it would not do so by simply ignoring existing law.
"The President and his appointees promised not to change the Clean Water Act's rules, but they are shirking that responsibility by just ignoring those rules,"says Joan Mulhern, senior legislative counsel for Earthjustice. "In turn, they are breaking the promise of the Clean Water Act, which is to protect all of the nation's waters, to make them safe for drinking water, for swimming and fishing. This cannot be done when the Corps leaves waters out of the law's scope."
The wetlands are extremely important for our communities' health and safety. For example, when wetlands are destroyed or filled, they are often replaced by impermeable paving or structures that increase water runoff and can contribute to increased flooding. In addition to protecting homes by storing floodwater, wetlands provide a variety of other benefits: they filter pollutants from our drinking water, and provide habitat for fish, shellfish and wildlife.