provide a higher interaction with a smaller segment of the concerned public.
- Corps determines appropriate level of Guidelines analysis
- Focus on environmental impacts, ensure rigor of alternatives analysis is commensurate with impacts to aquatic environment
The amount of information needed to make such a determination and the level of scrutiny required by the Section 404(b)(1) Guidelines must be commensurate with the severity of the environmental impact (as determined by the functions of the aquatic resource and the nature of the proposed activity) and the scope/cost of the project. The Corps must focus its resources on evaluations that focus on the aquatic impacts, and provide value added for protection of the aquatic environment.
Although all requirements in 40 CFR 230.10 must be met, the compliance evaluation procedures will vary to reflect the seriousness of the potential for adverse impacts on the aquatic ecosystems. The Corps must keep in mind that it regulates the total aquatic environment, not just wetlands. Often other aquatic resources such as seagrass beds, submerged fresh water aquatic vegetation, and hard bottom areas are as or more ecologically valuable than wetlands.
It always makes sense to examine first whether potential alternatives would result in no identifiable or discernible difference in impact on the aquatic ecosystem. Those alternatives that do not, may be eliminated from the analysis since Section 230.10(a) of the Guidelines only prohibits discharges when a practicable alternative exists which would have less adverse impact on the environment (this includes consideration of impacts of the proposed project and alternatives on non-aquatic as well as aquatic resources).
By initially focusing the alternatives analysis on the question of impacts on the aquatic ecosystem, it may be possible to limit (or in some instances eliminate altogether) the number of alternatives that have to be evaluated for practicability (an inquiry that is difficult, time consuming, and costly for applicants).
The level of analysis required for determining which alternatives are practicable will vary depending on the type of project proposed. The determination of what constitutes an unreasonable expense should generally consider whether the projected cost is substantially greater than the costs normally associated with the particular type of project.