To the editors:
I read with great interest your newspaper's November 3, 1989, article entitled "Swamp Squad" about the efforts of citizens to protect our nation's vanishing wetlands. However, the article did not mention U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (U.S. EPA) very significant and aggressive role in this effort.
The article alludes to a ruling against the Hoffman Group but does not explain its impact. The case was the country's first against a violator of wetlands regulations and it tested U.S. EPA's interpretation of its new authority under the Clean Water Act to protect wetlands. After a lengthy legal process, in which the developer requested a hearing and filed an appeal, U.S. EPA's administrative enforcement action was upheld.
The Hoffman Group was ordered to pay a $50,000 fine in addition to the $50,000 it had spent on mitigation and restoration efforts at the site. U.S. EPA will also order the Hoffman Group to construct new wetlands to offset the loss of the filled areas. This victory is important because it emphasizes the Agency's willingness and ability to prosecute violators to the full extent of the law and to prevail.
Clean Water Act amendments were passed in 1988. Since then, U.S. EPA's Midwest Regional Office initiated 70 wetland enforcement cases. Also, $360,000 in penalties have been collected; major wetland areas have been restored; and where losses were unavoidable, there have been efforts to keep them to a minimum.
U.S. EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are dedicated to protecting wetlands and we welcome the efforts and comments of the public. I applaud the work of the "Swamp Squad" and others such as the Sierra Club, the Open Lands Project, and BIOME (Balanced Interaction of Man and the Environment), to name but a few, who contribute to the protection, restoration, and enhancement of wetlands. U.S. EPA and the Corps often rely on concerned citizens to be our eyes and ears in the field.
Please call U.S. EPA if you suspect a wetlands violation. All of us must do what we can to protect our environment. Again, I commend the "swamp squads" for their commitment and request their help and support in saving our remaining wetlands.
Water Quality Branch