dam, to create a recreational amenity for a residential development proposed on adjacent uplands. HQUSACE agreed that, from a basic project purpose perspective, the dam was water dependent, but that the housing was not. Since the project included two elements, a project purpose excluding either was inappropriate. Therefore, it was concluded that the overall project purpose was a residential development with a water-related amenity. In Old Cutler Bay, the overall project purpose was properly determined to be “to construct a viable, upscale residential community with an associated regulation golf course in the south Dade County area.” This overall project purpose recognizes that an essential part of the upscale residential project was to include a full size (regulation) golf course, and identified a reasonable geographic area for the alternatives analysis.
The basic purpose of the project must be known to determine if a given project is “water dependent.” For example, the purpose of a residential development is to provide housing for people. Houses do not have to be located in a special aquatic site to fulfill the basic purpose of the project, i.e., providing shelter. Therefore, a residential development is not water dependent. If a project is not water dependent, alternatives, which do not involve impacts to waters of the United States are presumed to be available to the applicant (40 CFR 320.10(a)(3)). Examples of water dependent projects include, but are not limited to, dams, marinas, mooring facilities, and docks. The basic purpose of these projects is to provide access to the water. Although the basic purpose of a project may be water dependent, a vigorous evaluation of alternatives under National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Guidelines will often be necessary due to expected impacts to the aquatic environment (e.g., a marina that involves substantial impacts to or the loss of marsh or sea grass bed).
The overall project purpose is more specific to the applicant's project than the basic project purpose. The overall project purpose is used for evaluating practicable alternatives under the Section 404(b)(1) Guidelines. The overall project purpose must be specific enough to define the applicant's needs, but not so restrictive as to preclude all discussion of alternatives. Defining the overall project purpose is the responsibility of the Corps, however, the applicant's needs must be considered in the context of the desired geographic area of the development, and the type of project being proposed. Defining the overall purpose of a project is critical in its evaluation, and should be carefully considered. For example, a proposed road through wetlands or across a stream to provide access to an upland residential development would have an overall project purpose of “to construct road access to an upland development site. ” Based on this overall project purpose, the Corps would evaluate other potential access alternatives. However, the Corps would not consider alternatives