Nationwide Permit 13, Shoreline Armoring, and the Important Role of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Coastal Climate Change Adaptation

40 Pages Posted: 5 Sep 2017

See all articles by Travis O. Brandon

Travis O. Brandon

Belmont University - College of Law

Date Written: September 15, 2016

Abstract

The ongoing armoring of the nation’s coastlines with seawalls and bulkheads causes the inevitable destruction of miles of coastal wetlands. Armoring increases the rate of shoreline erosion and blocks the long term migration of wetlands inland, a process that will be necessary for coastal wetlands to survive sea level rise. Coastal armoring also reduces the habitat available to coastal species, and blocks access to the upper reaches of the beach for sea turtles and other species that depend on the beach for nesting. And yet, despite these well established and significant environmental harms, the United States Army Corps of Engineers currently authorizes the construction of bulkheads and seawalls up to five-hundred feet in length through a general permit—Nationwide Permit 13—that does not even require property owners to notify the United States Army Corps of Engineers before beginning construction. Under the Clean Water Act, such general permits are only authorized for activities that have “minimal adverse environmental effects.” This Article explains why Nationwide Permit 13 is unlawful under the Clean Water Act, and how Nationwide Permit 13 acts to encourage coastal development and undermine the adoption of less environmentally damaging erosion control measures, such as living shorelines. In addition, this Article argues that the upcoming reissuance of Nationwide Permit 13 in 2017 presents a crucial opportunity for the United States Army Corps of Engineers to change its approach to coastal armoring permits and assume an important role in administering a federal program of coastal climate change adaptation.

Keywords: Army Corps of Engineers Nationwide Permit 13, Clean Water Act, seawalls, bulkheads, Environmental Law, shoreline erosion, coastal wetlands

Suggested Citation

Brandon, Travis O., Nationwide Permit 13, Shoreline Armoring, and the Important Role of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Coastal Climate Change Adaptation (September 15, 2016). Environmental Law, Vol. 46, pg. 537 (2016); Belmont University College of Law Research Paper No. 2017-28. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3030797

Travis O. Brandon (Contact Author)

Belmont University - College of Law ( email )

1900 Belmont Boulevard
Nashville, TN 37212
United States

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