Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet
State wins EPA grant for wetlands and stream task force
FRANKFORT, Ky. (June 3, 2005) – The Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet (EPPC) has been awarded a $181,558 federal grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help fund development of Kentucky’s proposed program to issue environmental permits under Section 404 of the federal Clean Water Act.
Section 404 of the Clean Water Act regulates the discharge of rock, soil, concrete or other fill material into waters of the United States, including wetlands.
Implementation of Section 404 affects certain construction, mining, agricultural, and transportation projects in the Commonwealth. The program is currently administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in coordination with EPA but can be delegated to states that establish programs comparable to the federal program.
The 2005 General Assembly enacted legislation authorizing Kentucky to seek delegated authority from EPA to implement the federal 404 program. The EPA requires authorized state programs to have environmental protections equal to – or better than – those of the current federal program.
EPPC Secretary LaJuana S. Wilcher on May 13 announced appointment of a diverse group of interests to develop recommendations for a Kentucky regulatory program to take the place of the federal program. The first meeting of the task force is scheduled for June 13 in Frankfort.
Wilcher, EPA assistant administrator for water from 1989 to 1993, said the federal 404 program was the most complex she had encountered and that her experience in administering it at the federal level would help ensure a thorough review of the issues involved and Kentucky’s alternative.
“The work group will be evaluating the federal 404 program and then working to recommend state regulations that enhance and improve it,” the secretary said. “We will identify and seek to reach a consensus on how to address overlapping permitting requirements and inconsistencies, as well as ways to improve protection of our valuable aquatic resources under this law.”
It is expected that the group will make written recommendations to Governor Ernie Fletcher by the end of the year. The Governor will then decide whether to petition EPA for delegated authority.
Jimmy Palmer, administrator of EPA Region 4 in Atlanta, said Kentucky has “embarked upon a daunting effort to determine whether or not to administer the federal wetlands regulatory program at the state level.”
“We are very pleased to be able to provide both financial and technical assistance for this ambitious undertaking,” Palmer said.
Col. Robert Rowlette, commander of the Corps’ Louisville District, noted that he and his staff have had numerous discussions with state and EPA officials about Kentucky’s potential assumption of the Section 404 program.
“We are pleased to provide Kentucky with any information which will assist in evaluating this ambitious undertaking,” Rowlette said.