The Army Corps of Engineers came up with a bad idea
"Nationwide permits" which are issued by the Corps to regulate activity in wetlands and other water areas are updated every five years. You might apply for one of these permits if you wanted to change the course of a small stream on your land; if you're a developer and want to fill in some wetlands; or if you're a mining company and want to dispose of your mining waste in small bodies of water.
These permits are intended to protect lands from environmental destruction, however there's a little bit of controversy around this year's changes. According to an AP article, the new "clarifications" could encourage development in high risk, flood-prone areas. According to the Sierra Club the new verbage gives mining companies a greater license to destroy water supplies.
It doesn't seem like anyone will make any big stink about this right now, nor will it be the new enviro-cause of the month. Sierra Club has made their statement and the regulations have pretty much made it under the radar. This is rather unfortunate because it really does tie in to THE enviro-cause of the year - climate change.
If in fact new development does occur (as new development often does) in areas that are at higher risk for climate-change-induced-"natural disasters" two things will occur. First of all the natural environment/ecosystem will be stripped of its natural ability to cope with excess amounts of rain/water. Secondly, this will compound the situation for whatever structures are created upon this area, which will more than likely have been transformed into personal property or some sort of business. These things carry value and when damaged need insurance money to compensate their owners. And that's just physical property value, which doesn't include any type of loss of life that could occur, especially if schools or hospitals are built in such locations.
I've always thought it was just plain silly to build something in a flood plain (unless it is built to accommodate flooding). But to encourage development in these high risk areas just doesn't seem to be the right direction to be going in. Hopefully the insurance industry will step in to discourage some of that.
Via SustainableBusiness.com; MSNBC/AP; Army Corps of Engineers; Sierra Club