Enforcement of Sections 301 and 404 of the Clean Water Act: A Review of Enforcement Actions Pursued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region IV
Mazanti, Laura Ellen
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Section 301 of the Clean Water Act (CWA) makes a permit, issued pursuant to regulations promulgated under Section 404 of the CWA, a legal prerequisite to the discharge of dredged or fill material into water of the U.S. Should the discharge of dredged or fill material into waters of the U.S. occur without a 404 permit, Section 309(a)(3) of the CWA provides for the issuance of administrative orders or initiation of a civil action for such a violation. Administrative orders set forth the requirements for bringing a violation into compliance with Section 301, which may include such measures as complete restoration of the disturbed area and a schedule for compliance monitoring. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Region IV, has vigorously pursued enforcement of Section 301 for unauthorized discharges of dredged or fill material into waters of the U.S., including wetlands and stream systems. Numerous administrative actions have been taken in Georgia and Tennessee which have required partial or complete restoration of the disturbed wetlands and streams. The requirements for restoration and mitigation, as well as hydrologic and biological monitoring, have varied from site to site depending upon the type of perturbation involved and the site-specific hydrologic, vegetative and habitat recovery goals developed for each site. As of December, 1990, EPA has pursued over 30 different enforcement actions in Tennessee and Georgia. These violations were detected by various means, including notification by private citizens and discovery during routine field reconnaissance by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE) and EPA. It is believed that the violations that are detected and actively investigated are a small percentage of the total number of unauthorized activities actually occurring. The following is a review of two recent actions taken by EPA in these states which typify the variability of violations and the degree of difficulty in restoring and mitigating different types of wetland and stream impacts.