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Winter 2004-06 EPA & COE monitor closely wetlands impact

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Number 54
Winter 2004

EPA & COE monitor closely wetlands impact

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA"), in conjunction with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ("COE"), is closing in on developers that illegally fill wetlands to build houses, roads, condominiums, and industrial parks in contravention of wetland protections established under the federal Clean Water Act.

Recent enforcement activity against both public and private entities signals a renewed emphasis by both agencies to seek compliance by the island's developers with wetland protection provisions meant to safeguard valuable wetland areas. Wetlands are valuable aquatic resources which protect water quality, provide protection from storm events, contribute to erosion and flood control, in addition to being a source of food and habitat to local fish, birds, and other wildlife.

Activities that contribute to the loss or degradation of wetlands, including illegal constructions, can lead to serious and irreparable environmental harm. The recent enforcement cases were referred to EPA by the COE, which also enforces wetlands regulations in Puerto Rico. Violators may face, among others, civil and administrative penalties and restitution of the ecological loss which, in one of the cases, consisted in the creation of a new wetland area of up to ten-fold the size of the impacted area.


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