Contractors working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District install a 23-foot-tall concrete shaft enclosure weighing approximately 120,000 pounds as part of the guard wall at the Monongahela River Locks and Dam 4 in Charleroi, Pennsylvania, Nov. 16, 2023.

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Western Regulatory Field Office calls balls and strikes for equitable customer service

Nashville District
Published June 5, 2023
Three men gather in a circle around a patch of soil. One has a shovel, another has a Munsell Book, and the other is observing.

Adam McHann, David Medina, and Eric Sinclair, with the Western Regulatory Field Office, examine soil in a potential wetland next to the Tennessee River. (USACE Photo by HEATHER KING)

A man stands on a soil bed comparing colors of soil to a chart.

David Medina, regulatory specialist, compares the color of a soil sample to the color in the Munsell Soil Chart to classify the soil. (USACE Photo by HEATHER KING)

A woman sits behind her desk inputting information into the computer.

: Jimesha Rouse, regulatory program assistant, logs permit requests and inputs permits into Operations & Maintenance Business Information Link Regulatory Module. (USACE Photo by HEATHER KING)

Three men stand on a boat dock and measure the length of the dock.

David Medina, Adam McHann, and Eric Sinclair, with the Western Regulatory Field Office measure the size of a walkway to ensure it meets regulatory standards. (USACE Photo by HEATHER KING)

Riprap is pictured on the shoreline of a body of water.

Riprap along the bay area of Ingalls Shipyard protects the shoreline. (USACE Photo by HEATHER KING)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (June 5, 2023) – Customer service may not immediately inspire thoughts about the regulatory arm of the U.S. Corps of Engineers Nashville District. But customer service is precisely what the Western Regulatory Field Office in Decatur, Ala. provides through the permitting process.

A tenet of the Nashville District’s mission is environmental stewardship. Regulatory permits are a major component in mitigating environmental impact because of private and commercial land development.

The Western Regulatory Field Office is responsible for processing permits pursuant to Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act and Section 404 of the Clean Water Act in the Tennessee River Basin from Nickajack Dam to Kentucky Dam.

“We’re really a public facing office,” said Eric Sinclair, regulatory project manager and team lead. “We are not only public facing; we serve private and commercial entities.”

The only other public facing USACE mission is recreation.

“We are here to support the public”, said Jimesha Rouse, regulatory program assistant. “We want to work with them to do what’s best for their project and the environment.”

Rouse is the newest addition to the WRFO. She joined the Nashville District in January. Her interest in the Corps stemmed from wanting to stay connected to the mission after she retired from the Army.

The role Rouse plays is critical to the mission of the field office. She ensures all jurisdictional determinations and public notices are posted for the public’s awareness. Additionally, she receives permit requests, mainly from homeowners wanting to build docks or retaining walls along their property. It is her responsibility to verify the initial request was routed to Tennessee Valley Authority and then sent to the Corps for issuance.

Before a person, or commercial entity can receive a permit, a jurisdictional determination over the water and an evaluation of impact to the environment and waterway must occur.

Adam McHann and David Medina, biologists serving as regulatory specialists at the Western Regulatory Field Office gather the information to make the determination and verify its within jurisdiction.

If a commercial entity wants to build a shopping center or a residential complex on a parcel of land, McHann and Medina get to work. First, they must verify whether the parcel of land contains waters of the United States and the extent to which they may be affected by the proposed project. In addition to direct effects to waters proposed in the project, the staff at WRFO must also consider several factors in the public’s interest. For example, they weigh the benefits of the development to the public and its effects to the environment. They also must determine potential effects issuance of a permit for fill in waters might have on threatened or endangered species and historic properties. 

The WRFO team guides an applicant through the application process to ensure a project would not be contrary to the public interest. If concerns are identified, applicants have an opportunity to modify their original proposal to address them. “We’re not proponents nor opponents of any project,” said Sinclair. “Instead, the role of the regulatory team is to serve all people and apply the regulations. We call balls and strikes,” joked Sinclair.

Calling balls and strikes is an excellent description of how the Western Regulatory Field Office provides excellent, unbiased customer service while maintaining USACE’s commitment to protecting the Nation's aquatic resources and navigation capacity.  

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Chick Lock

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