January 16, 2002
The following letter was written by someone for whom I have enormous respect, but who prefers to stay in the background. His name is withheld by request.
"Dear Mr. Berka,
I am writing to you to express my concern over the impact of recent revisions
to Corps Nationwide Permits on not only the Walmart Project in Overland Park,
but many other future projects in the area. I am a bit confused by recent
newpaper articles, but as I understand the revisions, Walmart may apply for a
waiver of the 300 linear ft. threshold for NWP 39. I urge you to seriously
and carefully consider all the implications of granting the waiver before you
make that decision. The newspapers have implied that this revision is
exactly what Walmart was waiting for and that the decision to grant the
waiver is a "done deal". I sincerely hope that this is not the case, for it
would confirm all the worst fears that the public has about your agency and
its possible complicity with the development industry at the expense of the
safety and welfare of the public and the environment.
As you are probably well aware, the Kansas City District has one of the
highest impacts to Waters of the U.S. through its issuance of Nationwide
Permits of any district in the nation (PEIS, 2000). It is no mere
coincicence that our area also experiences some of the worst flooding,
erosion, and water quality problems in the nation. The systematic
destruction of first and second order streams (commonly referred to as
"drainage ditches" by developers) within the Tomahawk and Indian Creek
watersheds has resulted in environmentally compromised, dangerously
destructive waters. This has cost cities, businesses and individuals
millions of dollars in engineered solutions over the years.
You are now being asked to look the other way as developers seek to pave over
headwater and intermittent streams in the Negro Creek Watershed, most notably
at the site of the proposed Walmart Supercenter. Flooding and erosion
problems are already a concern and issue for homes downstream from the site.
The impact of this many acre development on Negro Creek will be tremendous
and the public has a right to voice its concerns and be heard. The precedent
that would be set by allowing a project with an impact of the magnitude of
Walmart Supercenter to proceed under a Nationwide Permit would cause a tidal
wave of similar requests. We have already seen the devastating effects of
the old NWP system on streams in our area and the new waiver and NWPs remove
even those meager restrictions.
I urge you please deny the request for a waiver of any thresholds set by a
Nationwide permit and instead allow the developer to proceed with an
application for an Individual Permit on the site. The public should be
allowed to comment and to voice any concerns which may affect any decisions
you may make. Your agency must scrutinize the potential impacts of the
project, both immediate and cumulative, and seriously consider the need for
onsite mitigation to alleviate those downstream impacts.
Withheld at request of author]
Overland Park, KS"