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The Compleat Wetlander: Top Ten Wetland News Stories of 2009 – Part 1

As 2009 wound to a close last week, the annual deluge of the ‘year in review stories’ was shared on TV broadcasts, newspapers, radio broadcasts, magazines and other news outlets.  These are topical summaries of the notable events of 2009.

 It seems like every year is a busy year in wetlands and 2009 was no exception.  So over the next two weeks I will share my list of 10 important events that affected wetlands policy in 2009.  These stories are ongoing and can be expected to continue to have an impact on wetlands policy in the future as well.  This week’s list of five include stories that made the headlines repeatedly and were featured in Wetland Breaking News and other ASWM webpages more than once.

Below is a recap of key articles summarizing these stories.

If you have additional stories to add, please send us a comment!

#1 Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Moves Clean Water Act clarification bill forward and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Postpones Action Until 2010

Critical Clean Water Protections Approved by Key Senate Committee By Eric Young – Natural Resources Defense Council/Common Dreams – June 18, 2009
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved the Clean Water Restoration Act today, a landmark bill that reinstates Clean Water Act protections for a host of water bodies jeopardized by a pair of Supreme Court decisions. For full press release, go to:

Additional links: Clean Water Restoration Act Being Marked Up Today
From Jan Goldman-Carter – Fly Rod Reel – June 18, 2009
Clean Water Restoration Act Gains Detractors
Environmental Leader
– June 18, 2009
National Farmers Union Board Expresses Support for Baucus Clean Water Amendment
June 17, 2009
Environment Grps Praise Senate Panel For New Clean Water Bill
Wall Street Journal – June 18, 2009
House delays EPA reach into wetlands By Amanda DeBar – Washington Times – December 15, 2009 – Plans to rush through the House of Representatives legislation that would expand the scope of the Clean Water Act, the main tool for keeping the nation’s waters clean, have proved to be too ambitious. Rep. James L. Oberstar, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, last week shelved his goal of introducing and passing his water legislation before Congress goes on vacation Friday. The Minnesota Democrat instead will introduce his legislation, called the Clean Water Restoration Act, next year. For full story,

#2 EPA Elevates Section 404 Coal Mining Permits

Mountaintop Mining To Get More Scrutiny By David A. Fahrenthold – Washington Post – June 11, 2009 The Obama administration will announce plans today to tighten scrutiny of mountaintop coal mining, in an effort to reduce environmental damage from operations that shear off peaks and fill Appalachian valleys, federal officials said. For full story, go to:
EPA Releases Preliminary Results for Surface Coal Mining Permit Reviews 
EPA News Release – September 11, 2009 The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced last week that it has identified 79 proposed surface coal-mining projects in Appalachian states for further, detailed reviews of their pending permits.  The Corps and EPA will work together during this review process to ensure compliance with the Clean Water Act and the protection of this nation’s public health and environment.

For more information visit:
EPA Finalizes List of Mining Permits Needing Review WHSV News – September 30, 2009
Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., re-emphasized Wednesday her economic concerns surrounding the latest announcement from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that 79 Appalachian region mining permits have been officially singled out for further delay. The EPA announced Wednesday that it has finalized its list of area mining permits that will demand “additional review and coordination.” For full story, go to:

#3 Michigan nearly returns Section 404 Program to Corps and EPA

Granholm wants feds to regulate Mich. Wetlands  By John Flesher – Chicago Tribune – February 3, 2009 – Gov. Jennifer Granholm on Tuesday recommended scrapping Michigan’s wetland protection law and transferring wetland regulation in the state to the federal government. Michigan has operated a separate wetland program since 1984, the only state to do so except New Jersey. For full story, go to:
MI: Analysis says Mich. wetlands could be vulnerable
Associated Press – March 4, 2009 – An analysis by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality says dismantling the state’s wetland protection program could leave nearly 1 million acres of wetlands without legal protection. For full story, go to:
Michigan urged to keep wetland power  By Jim Lynch – Detroit News – July 8, 2009
Michigan would be better served by keeping wetlands protection in state hands, rather than turning that responsibility over to the federal government, according to a report released Tuesday by regional environmental groups. For full article, go to:

Year in Review: Sour economy adds to Mich.’s environmental woes – Invasive carp, dioxin, wetlands and coal dominate ’09 headlines – By Eartha Jane Melzer 12/28/09 Financial trouble pushed state and national leaders to suggest abandoning longstanding environmental programs this year and some even blamed air and water quality regulations for Michigan’s economic problems.

#4 Supreme Court Kensington Mine Case

AK: Supreme Court Grills Couer On Tailings – By Kate Golden – Juneau Empire – January 13, 2009 – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday grilled attorneys about an interpretation of the Clean Water Act that would allow Coeur Alaska to deposit mine tailings in Lower Slate Lake. The Kensington mine is on hold until the decision, which the court has until June to release. For full story, go to: For additional editorial, go to: For additional story, Mine wants US court to OK dumping waste in lake, go to:
Summary of June 22, 2009 Supreme Court Decision in Couer Alaska, Inc. v. Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, et al. – In  6-3 Clean Water Act ruling that could allow lakes and other waters to be more easily destroyed and polluted by mining and other polluting activities, the Supreme Court today upheld that an unprecedented agency permitting decision allowing the Couer Alaska mine company to avoid stringent permitting requirements and instead dump their waste directly into Alaska’s Lower Slate Lake.  For the complete summary and decision, go to: For a summary, go to: For a related news story, visit:

#5 Delaware 401 Certification Denial Ignored by Corps Civil Works

Delaware sues to stop Delaware River dredging By Leah Hoenen November 3, 2009 – In a move hailed by environmentalists and lauded by Gov. Jack Markell, Delaware Attorney General Joseph Biden filed suit in federal court to stop a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plan to deepen the Delaware River channel without permits from the state.  On Oct. 23, the corps announced it would proceed with its dredging plan. Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) Secretary Collin O’Mara denied permits for the project this summer.  Biden called the corps decision to move forward unacceptable. –
Judge hears arguments in Delaware river dredging – By RANDALL CHASE (AP) – Dec 8, 2009 – WILMINGTON, Del. — Attorneys for the Army Corps of Engineers and the state of Delaware faced off in federal court Tuesday over the Corps’ plan to begin dredging a portion of the Delaware River without obtaining state permits.

Dredging battle goes to court By Christopher K. Hepp and Linda Loyd
Inquirer Staff Writers Posted December 9, 2009 As the battle over a proposal to deepen Delaware River shipping lanes went to federal court yesterday, Gov. Rendell reaffirmed Pennsylvania’s commitment to take any unwanted muck dredged from the river.

The news stories featured next week will be those that didn’t necessarily make big headlines, but can be expected to have an ongoing impact on national wetlands policy.

Jeanne Christie
Executive Director

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