Administration and Enforcement of the Section 404 Program

T-RCED-88-54: Published: Sep 14, 1988. Publicly Released: Sep 14, 1988.

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GAO discussed the Corps of Engineers' administration of the section 404 program, focusing on: (1) the overall impact of the program in controlling wetlands losses; (2) the extent to which the Corps considered federal resource agencies' comments during the permitting process; and (3) how the Corps and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enforced program requirements. GAO found that: (1) the Corps did not have the authority to regulate activities that resulted in the majority of wetlands losses; (2) some resource agencies believed that the Corps did not protect as many wetlands as it could; (3) although the Corps districts generally considered resource agencies' comments on permit applications, they often did not adopt recommendations that would lead to project modifications or denial; (4) resource agencies infrequently used their authority to appeal Corps permit decisions to higher levels within the Corps; (5) neither the Corps nor EPA emphasized monitoring and enforcement activities; and (6) the Corps stated that staff and budget constraints limited its role in enforcing the program. GAO believes that the Corps should work with the resource agencies and EPA to develop procedures for improving program administration and enforcement.

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