Tag Archives: Clean Water Act

Assumption: Don’t Play This Over Untamed Waters

Logically speaking, an assumption is a supposition, the product of the verb—to assume—which can mean to take upon oneself; to presuppose; to take for granted; to pretend to have/be; or the archaic definition: to adopt.

Religiously speaking, assumption is the bodily progression from earth to heaven, especially with respect to the Catholic faith. For example, the “Assumption of Mary” was the undisputed account of her being taken up to heaven. The “Assumption of Moses,” however, remains controversial. Those who believed in assumption were called “Assumptionists” (a.k.a. Augustinians, named after St. Augustine) and they established twenty or so colleges around the globe, such as Assumption College in Worcester, Mass. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02104a.htm

Assumption is also the name of towns in Ohio and Illinois, as well as an island in the Seychelles (Indian Ocean), a parish in Louisiana and a river in Quebec, Canada.

In a game like CLUE, or a modern spin on it, Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) the board game, players make assumptions based on a natural process of deducing a certain set of facts and forming a guess about the crime. In real life, a detective makes assumptions that might be proven correct or false, leading to other conclusions.

Because an assumption can be proven false, there is the old adage: “When you assume, you make an ass of you and me.” This joke might be funny in a variety of “assumption” contexts: mathematical modeling, real property law (transferring the mortgage from seller to buyer), or reinsurance of policy claims. But perhaps the most unusual type of “assumption” is a fictional Poker game played with Tarot cards, as featured in the novel Last Call by Tim Powers. The stakes are high as they come with a spiritual twist on the usual pot. Players should be wary of this water caveat: “Assumption must never be played over “untamed” water like a natural lake, river, or ocean. Man-made bodies of water like Lake Mead are useful sites for play, and in fact the climactic final game takes place over that lake.” http://www.sff.net/people/lucy-snyder/brain/2005/12/playing-poker-with-tarot-cards.html

Strangely enough, that poker game is not nearly as complex to stake-holders as state assumption of the Section 404 program under the Clean Water Act is for states. In this context, assumption is the states’ option to apply to adopt the regulatory authority for the 404 program, which regulates dredge and fill activities in streams and wetlands.  Currently there are only two states, Michigan and New Jersey, which have assumed the 404 program. Other states have shown great interest and yet, few people outside of state wetland programs have heard of assumption. I know a little about it because I had to become an expert on the subject after two years of research. I developed fact sheets on assumption for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers. Everything I learned about it is posted on this webpage I put together for ASWM here. 

ASWM and the Environmental Council to the States, as well as EPA and a number of states have been working to clarify the application process for states to assume §404. The group is drafting a handbook, which will offer much needed guidelines to states.http://aswm.org/wetland-programs/s-404-assumption

And by the way, if Strange Wetlands ever takes on a swamp rock cover band, they’ll be called the Assumptionists.

Dirty Gold, Dug Dirt Deep

There are two wetlands-related Alaskan cases in the news right now with one being the controversial Supreme Court decision in Couer, Alaska resulting in a ruling that could allow mining activities in the Bristol Bay watershed, which is home to the sockeye salmon. The decision potentially affects a much larger mining project in Bristol Bay in Southwest Alaska. With the speed of social networking sites, the ripple effects of this decision are international, potentially global, and supporters of the Bristol Bay fishery are coming in all shapes and sizes – even jewelry. At least six U.K. based jewelry companies and designers, including Tiffany’s & Co., have declared they won’t buy the so-called “dirty gold” from the Pebble mine in the Bristol Bay watershed. The pebble mine has not officially filed for a permit or decided yet whether it will dump waste into the Lower Slate Lake. (Its back-up plan involves filling area streams and wetlands and then putting the rock waste on top of the fill.)

Summary of the June 22, 2009 Supreme Court Decision in Couer Alaska, Inc. v. Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, et al. In  6-3 Clean Water Act ruling that could allow lakes and other waters to be more easily destroyed and polluted by mining and other polluting activities, the Supreme Court today upheld that an unprecedented agency permitting decision allowing the Couer Alaska mine company to avoid stringent permitting requirements and instead dump their waste directly into Alaska’s Lower Slate Lake. For the summary and decision, go to: For a summary, go to: http://topics.law.cornell.edu/supct/cert/07-984

For a related news story, go to: Court allows gold mine to dump waste in lake

Leading UK Jewelers Say *No* to Dirty Gold from Alaska Mine
Earthworks Press Release – April 14, 2009
Six prestigious UK jewelry retailers, including Tiffany’s & Co., and designers representing 260 stores pledged their support for Bristol Bay, Alaska, by announcing that they will not buy gold from Anglo American’s proposed “Pebble” mine, a massive open-pit operation being considered in the bay’s headwaters. The Bristol Bay watershed supports the world’s most productive wild sockeye salmon fishery, which is critical to the state’s economy and to the livelihoods of many Alaska Native communities. The UK is the largest consumer of Bristol Bay canned sockeye salmon. The threat to the Bristol Bay fishery has generated an unusual and diverse array of allies, including Alaska’s commercial fishing industry, over 140 sportfishing businesses, the Alaska Intertribal Council (a consortium of 231 Alaska Tribes), and numerous conservation groups.http://www.earthworksaction.org/PR_AK2UK.cfm

More links to information about the Pebble Mine and Pebble Partnership in Alaska:

For NPCA press release, Report Finds Lake Clark National Park in Pristine Condition, Resources Threatened by Mining, go to:http://www.npca.org/media_center/press_releases/2009/lake_clark_report_071409.htmlFor the full report on Lake Clark National Park & Preserve in Alaska, go to:http://www.npca.org/stateoftheparks/lake_clark/