"With construction season here, it is crucial to highlight the fact that streams and wetlands are essential to flood reduction and water-quality improvement, and you must call before you fill," said Paul Leffler, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Chicago District Regulatory Program senior project manager. "Protecting streams, lakes and wetlands is critical due to their role in preventing flooding, improving water quality, and providing habitat for fish and wildlife, as well as the extensive recreational value they provide to the public."

Many landowners do not realize the importance of wetlands or that they may exist on their properties. Anyone planning to place fill materials, excavate, dredge or use heavy equipment in a wetland, lake, stream, river or pond must ensure they have the proper permits before starting work. Impacting wetlands without proper approvals can lead to legal action, site restoration, civil and criminal fines and, possibly, imprisonment.

Wetlands are areas that are occasionally or permanently flooded by water and support vegetation that is adapted for life in saturated soil. They help remove pollutants, prevent flooding by acting like giant sponges that absorb flood waters and slowly release them downstream and provide habitat for all types of wildlife.

"The Corps employs a diverse team of environmental professionals ensuring sustainability and improving quality of life and seeking balance and synergy between natural systems and human development," said USACE, Chicago District Commander Col. Frederic A. Drummond Jr.

The mission of the USACE Regulatory Program is to protect the nation's aquatic resources, while allowing reasonable development through fair, flexible and balanced permit decisions.

Within the Chicago District's Regulatory jurisdiction, one of the biggest environmental concerns in northwest Indiana is flooding. Indiana has lost 85 percent of its wetlands and ranks fourth among the 50 states in proportion of wetland acreage lost.

"We are committed to working with landowners in order to achieve their project goals, while remaining in compliance with regulations," said Leffler. "Our job is to enforce the Clean Water Act."

The objective of the Clean Water Act is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the nation's waters. The act specifies that all discharges into the nation's waters are unlawful unless authorized by a permit. Therefore, the law protects wetlands by requiring permits.

USACE strives to protect, sustain, and improve the natural and man-made environment of our nation, and is committed to compliance with applicable environmental and energy statutes, regulations, and Executive Orders. Sustainability is not only part of the Corps' decision processes, but is also part of its culture.