Wetlands Authority

By Loretta Macktal, Executive Assistant to the Vice President, Government Relations

Capitol Update, March 5, 2004 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

AB 1477, introduced by Byron Sher (D-Stanford), would require a person proposing to undertake a project that creates, or threatens to create, adverse impacts to wetlands to submit a waste discharge report and it will make it a crime to fail to do so. Moreover, it redefines “beneficial uses” to specifically include floodwater retention, pollutant removal, and habitat connectivity.

The bill would expand the scope of California's State and Regional Water Board(s) into vernal habitat. Clearing of vegetation will be hampered. There is also no "de minimus" area limitations within the regulations and a member of the State Water Resources Board (the Board) staff has stated, on more than one occasion, that if you wanted to fill a large mud puddle (or the swimming pool) in your backyard you would need a permit.

This measure further requires the Board to consult with other agencies prior to issuing a waste discharge permit that may result in the taking of a threatened or endangered species, obviously adding to the difficulty of obtaining a permit and the time to process a permit.

The Board would be required to formulate and adopt a program to protect and restore isolated, non-navigable waters, wetlands, and special aquatic sites that includes the adoption of requirements to implement the state policy of no net loss of state wetlands.

This bill would give the State Water Resources Board and the regional boards jurisdiction over developments that were previously controlled by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (the SWANCC sites). These sites are already regulated by a number of other agencies. Carol Browner, US EPA administrator from 1992-2000 and now chairman of the National Audubon Society, is behind this bill.

At the same time that Senator Sher is attempting to move this legislation, the State Water Resources Board is moving forward with hearings and a public comment period to implement these same changes in its authority without (in our opinion) the legal authority to do so.
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