It's better to know the rules in advance than to break them and pay the penalty.
That's the message Dave Casey, Kenai field representative for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, brought to the Kenai Chamber of Commerce Wednesday.
Offering the chamber's weekly presentation, Casey outlined the basics for obtaining permits for wetland development.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for enforcing sections 10 and 404 of the Clean Water Act, Casey explained.
Section 10, established in 1899, maintains that individuals and businesses must get permits for any work that affects the course or condition of waters such as oceans, coastal regions or navigable waters. Section 404 requires permits for placement of any dredged or fill materials in wetlands, lakes, streams and marshes.
There are three types of permits available, including nationwide, regional general and individual. The first two function as umbrella permits, covering a series of similar work projects on waterways. The individual permits are more difficult to obtain and cover only single projects on a case-by-case basis, Casey said.
In order to get these permits, individuals can set up a preapplication meeting to begin the assessment process. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers then makes a jurisdictional determination to establish whether a permit is necessary for the project.
The jurisdictional determination is a free process that may take about two weeks. Applicants need only supply a request in writing with the location, a map and permission of the owner to survey the land.
The Corps judges the land on three criteria:
Vegetation -- Is it typically adapted to water-saturated soil?
Hydrology -- Is it saturated with surface or ground water at a significant frequency and length of time?
Soils -- Is it saturated or flooded long enough to develop anaerobic conditions?
If the Corps finds that the land and project meets all three conditions, a permit process ensues.
The purpose of the permitting process is to protect wetlands, which serve as breeding and feeding grounds of wildlife, storage areas for flood waters, contaminant filters and shoreline buffers for erosion.
However, Casey said, just because an area qualifies as a wetland does not mean a development permit cannot be issued.
"Different wetlands function in different ways and have different values," he said. "We may not be very concerned about a particular one, but you still need a permit."
Consequences for developing on protected areas can range from being required to go through an after-the-fact permit process to having to restore the corrupted lands.
"If you're not sure, give us a call," Casey said. "The jurisdictional determination is free. It may take a few weeks, but certainly the letter will serve you well."
The Kenai field office of the U.S. Corps of Engineers is located at 105 Trading Bay Drive in Kenai. For more information, call 283-3519 or visit www.pua.usace.army.mil /reg.
In other chamber news:
Kenai Mayor John Williams issued a proclamation deeming Monday through Sunday Poppy Week in honor of the American Legion's effort to sell poppies in memory of veterans.
Chris Myers of Unocal presented prizes for the most successful efforts at the Kenai-Soldotna Cleanup Day May 18. In the youth category, New Life Assembly of God earned the $300 first prize. The North Road Wrestlers earned $200 for second place, and the Boys and Girls Club earned $100 for third place. In the adult category, HP Parts and Machines won the $300 first-place award, and the Lions Club won $200 for second. Signworks and the Kenai Care Center each won $50 for third.
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