(a) Findings.--Congress finds that--

(1) wetlands play an integral role in maintaining the quality of life through material contributions to our national economy, food supply, water supply and quality, flood control, and fish, wildlife, and plant resources, and thus to the health, safety, recreation and economic well-being of citizens throughout the Nation;

(2) wetlands serve important ecological and natural resource functions, such as providing essential nesting and feeding habitat for waterfowl, other wildlife, and many rare and endangered species, fisheries habitat, the enhancement of water quality, and natural flood control;

(3) much of the Nation's resource has sustained significant degradation, resulting in the need for effective programs to limit the loss of ecologically significant wetlands and to provide for long-term restoration and enhancement of the wetlands resource base;

(4) most of the loss of wetlands in coastal Louisiana is not attributable to human activity;

(5) because 75 percent of the Nation's wetlands in the lower 48 States are privately owned and because the majority of the Nation's population lives in or near wetlands areas, an effective wetlands conservation and management program must reflect a balanced approach that conserves and enhances important wetlands values and functions while observing private property rights, recognizing the need for essential public infrastructure, such as highways, ports, airports, pipelines, sewer systems, and public water supply systems, and providing the opportunity for sustained economic growth;

(6) while wetlands provide many varied economic and environmental benefits, they also present health risks in some instances where they act as breeding grounds for insects that are carriers of human and animal diseases;

(7) the Federal permit program established under section 404 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act was not originally conceived as a wetlands regulatory program and is insufficient to ensure that the Nation's wetlands resource base will be conserved and managed in a fair and environmentally sound manner; and

(8) navigational dredging plays a vital role in the Nation's economy and, while adequate safeguards for aquatic resources must be maintained, it is essential that the regulatory process be streamlined.

(b) Purpose.--The purpose of this title is to establish a new Federal regulatory program for certain wetlands and waters of the United States--

(1) to assert Federal regulatory jurisdiction over a broad category of specifically identified activities that result in the degradation or loss of wetlands;

(2) to provide that each Federal agency, officer, and employee exercise Federal authority under section 404 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to ensure that agency action under such section will not limit the use of privately owned property so as to diminish its value;

(3) to account for variations in wetlands functions in determining the character and extent of regulation of activities occurring in wetlands areas;

(4) to provide sufficient regulatory incentives for conservation, restoration, or enhancement activities;

(5) to encourage conservation of resources on a watershed basis to the fullest extent practicable;

(6) to protect public safety and balance public and private interests in determining the conditions under which activity in wetlands areas may occur; and

(7) to streamline the regulatory mechanisms relating to navigational dredging in the Nation's waters.


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