By Elizabeth Whitman | Phoenix New Times
The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality is determined to take over a Clean Water Act program regulating what gets dumped into canals, rivers and wetlands, despite concerns by environmentalists.
If it succeeds, Arizona would oversee the granting of permits to dump dredged and fill materials into certain waterways — including rivers, streams, washes, and lakes — that are defined as “navigable.” Under the law, that means any waterway “subject to the ebb and flow of the tide” or that are, or could be, used for commercial transportation. It would become just the third state in the country to assume primacy, as the process of federal-to-state control is formally known.
The ADEQ says it can grant permits just as safely and more efficiently than the current administrator, the Army Corps of Engineers.
But some participants in the process are doubtful of those claims and are critical of the state’s efforts to prove it can adequately manage the permitting process. Under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, developers, utilities, mining companies, government departments, and others working on projects like dams, levees, airports, highways, or mining sites need a permit in order to discharge dredged or fill materials into these waterways. They must show that their projects won’t significantly degrade water quality, or that they have no choice but to dump those materials into the water.
Skepticism that the ADEQ could handle this responsibility surfaced on Tuesday, when the ADEQ held a meeting for the mix of consultants, industry lawyers, government representatives, and handful of environmentalists charged with helping to put together a plan to demonstrate Arizona’s ability to grant these permits.