New U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit streamlines maintenance of managed rice tidal fields
On Aug. 15, the S.C. Department of Natural Resources along with Ducks Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), as well as rice plantation owners and managers and environmental consultants joined together to note the completion of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Charleston District, Managed Tidal Impoundment General Permit.
The various stakeholders gathered at Nemours Plantation in Yemassee to celebrate the development and issuing of a regional general permit for certain types of work necessary to maintain managed tidal impoundments. These impoundments are often located on historic plantations which were formerly used for the rice culture. The permit is the first of its kind for the District and was developed to authorize certain legitimate emergency response procedures and for the routine and normal maintenance and repair activities of managed rice tidal fields.
The goal of the new permit is to save critical time for the applicant on routine and normal maintenance or emergency repair activity. Previously, either the work had to be done under a nationwide permit or the applicant had to apply for an individual Department of the Army permit for each activity. This can take even longer to obtain and also requires the applicant to apply to the Office of Coastal Resource Management for their permit. This time savings is imperative because in emergency situations an embankment failure could occur while waiting for the permit as well as expediting routine and normal activities necessary for the continued management of these areas.
The final managed tidal impoundment general permit (# 2011-1157) was issued on July 10, 2012. Activities authorized by the general permit include some of the following:
- Replacement, relocation, or installation of existing and new water control structures
- Excavation of new or maintenance of inlet canals associated with water controls structures
- Construction of bulkheads associated with water controls structures
- Re-topping of existing and functional field-dikes
- Re-establishment of berm for embankment stabilization
- Construction and maintenance of quarter/interior field drains
- Construction of road crossings across canals or drains within existing managed tidal impoundments
- Moist soil management practices
- Emergency construction of contraction embankments
The eligibility determination procedure requires that the applicant submit a list of specific information to the Corps. The Corps will make an eligibility determination prior to use of the general permit and will provide the applicant with a letter confirming eligibility. Determining eligibility in advance of anticipated use of the general permit will not only help to ensure that the general permit is only used in eligible fields but will help the speed of the permitting process once applications are submitted.
The eligibility determination procedure also includes coordination periods with SHPO and USFWS to allow them to determine if any activity authorized by the general permit that occurs within eligible managed tidal impoundment fields will affect a historic property or a threatened and endangered species.