NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

New Rules Rein in Corps' Authority Over Wetlands

February 13, 2003

The Army Corps of Engineers is, by statute, the country's preeminent protector of wetlands. For the past two years, however, the Corps has been recalculating its authority and found that it doesn't have as much as it once thought.

  • For example, along 1,000 miles of Texas coast, the Corps claims its jurisdiction has shrunk to 1.8 million acres -- 60 percent of what it was in 2000.
  • In Barnwell, S.C., where the Corps once claimed jurisdiction over 76 acres of wetlands, it now claims 1.7 acres.

The corps has been trying to resolve questions left unanswered by a Supreme Court decision in 2001 --which of the tens of millions of acres of wetlands are eligible for federal protection as "waters of the United States"?

Environmental Protection Agency officials estimated the total amount of wetlands under federal protection at 100 million acres before the Supreme Court's ruling. Fewer than 20 million acres will be shaved off that estimate, experts say.

Source: Douglas Jehl, "Changes in Defining Wetland Anger Critics of Army Corps," New York Times, February 11, 2003.  


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