You may not know that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Regulatory Division has the authority, throughout our entire country, to protect the Waters of the United States. As part of this authority, anyone, or any entity, who wishes to put anything into U.S. waters that might introduce material into the river, needs to obtain a Section 404 Permit from the Corps.
The Authority for 404 permits is part of the Clean Water Act. As you might guess, obtaining a permit doesn’t always happen prior to an event. Here is a recent example:
In late August, 2018, the Albuquerque District’s Regulatory Division was contacted by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department that there was, in regulatory terms, an unauthorized discharge of fill material into waters of the United States. The location was the Pecos River, near Mentone, Loving County, Texas. In laymen’s terms: an unauthorized and unpermitted dam had been built in the Pecos River, and was backing up the water, preventing down-stream flow.
On June 28, 2018, three members of the District’s Regulatory Division visited the site. They observed that the dam had been built of broken concrete, petro calcic rock, and sediment. By the time the District employees got the area, the dam had failed, and had already caused significant bank erosion on the west side of the river.
The dam had been built by the Loving County Water Improvement District. This was clearly a violation of the Clean Water Act. Based on observations by Corps’ personnel, the request for a permit to build this dam would have been denied, had a permit been requested, because of the unstable nature of the construction.
The Loving County Water Improvement District has been notified by the District’s Regulatory staff and has agreed to return the area to its preconstruction conditions. They are in the process of removing all of the fill down to the base level of the river; they will also restore river banks to its preconstruction contours.