Army Corps Explains Permit Proposal - - The News for South Mississippi

Army Corps Explains Permit Proposal

Officials from the Mississippi DEQ, DMR and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers held a meeting Monday afternoon in Ocean Springs to answer general permitting questions. Most of the questions they fielded were about the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' proposed five acre fill rule, something that has captured the attention of developers and environmentalists alike.

"We currently have nationwide permits in place that are general permits with a half acre limit. Our regional general permit would, at least with what we're proposing at this point, would increase that limit to five acres," said Tunis McElwain of the Mobile District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The proposal would allow developers to bypass the conventional regional general permit process for any projects that fill up to five acres of "low-quality" wetlands in Mississippi's six southernmost counties. It would also eliminate the requirement for public notice on such projects.

"The driving force behind this making the permitting process more expeditious is the need for housing to get people back into housing, and back into schools and other public developments quickly," said Bill Walker, Executive Director of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources.

Corps leaders say they've gotten more than 7,500 comments on the proposal so far with a good number of those comments against the proposal as it is. Officials say most of the feedback they've received so far is calling for the Corps to lower the limit from five acres to two or three acres. The Corps is still looking for feedback.

"This is a proposed permit, and we've generated a public notice, and that expires December 10," McElwain said.

The Corps of Engineers has the final say in the matter. A decision is expected in Spring of next year.  

By Toni Miles

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