Arizona proposes to assume authority over key provision of the federal Clean Water Act

Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, which protects the quality of U. S. waters, is currently administered by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). Under Section 404, developers, utilities, mining companies, and other entities working on construction projects such as dams, levees, highways, or mining, need a permit to discharge dredged or fill materials into waterways. A bill passed by the Arizona Legislature this year may allow the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) to assume authority over Section 404 and to oversee the granting of permits. While ADEQ stated that assuming primacy would enable the agency to grant permits more efficiently than the USACE, opponents are concerned that unlike the USACE, Arizona will not be able to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about the effects of proposed projects on plant and animal species, thereby reducing protection for these species. In addition, opponents have raised concerns regarding the state’s lack of funding and expertise to run the program properly, and regarding the fact that ADEQ intends to fund the program through permitting fees. If it succeeds, Arizona would become the third state in the country to assume primacy; the two states that have received federal approval to run their own Section 404 permit programs are Michigan and New Jersey.