In the late 1980s, life was simple: DeLoreans, parachute pants, Michael J. Fox in theaters. Life under the Clean Water Act was simple as well. Over the last three decades, a lot has changed.
We’ve seen multiple Supreme Court cases (Bayside, SWANCC, and Rapanos) dealing with the limits of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. These cases and subsequent agency guidance muddied the waters, so to speak.
Section 404 of the Clean Water Act requires a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before dredged or fill material may be discharged into waters of the United States as a result of development activities. Getting a permit from the Corps can be tricky because of the need to mitigate any impacts to those waters and wetlands.
Mitigation under Section 404 requires replacement of lost aquatic functions and values as a result of development activity. That typically means compensating for a wetland impact with a created, restored, and/or preserved wetland somewhere else.
In drought-stricken Central Texas, rain can be elusive. Hence my surprise when the sound of the rain jolts me awake at midnight. My brain struggles to place my location. Then it hits me. We’re stormwater sampling and it’s my turn to check the weather and real-time water quality data that determine our ability to collect the appropriate samples.
We’ve worked out an effective system to check the data in shifts so that only one person each hour has to wake up, and the rest of the team can get a few hours of consecutive sleep.